A senior signing up for Medicare.
Justin Sullivan | Getty Images
The open enrollment season for Medicare participants can sometimes be overwhelming due to the wide variety of options.
The average senior will have 47 different health plans to choose from in 2021, according to the Trump administration, a 20% increase from last year.
For most years, most seniors turn to independent brokers and insurance agents to find out which plan is best for them.
“In our focus groups, people said it was nice to have an agent to walk you through the options and guide you to a specific plan,” said Tricia Neuman, executive director of the Kaiser Family Foundation’s Medicare Policy Program. But she adds, “It’s a lot more difficult this year just because people are mostly at home.”
With Covid-19 cases rising across the country, seniors are reluctant to seek personal help this year. In countries with high variability, only 9% of Medicare beneficiaries said they would meet in person with a broker this year. This is the result of a consumer survey by the health insurance consultancy Clever research. Two thirds plan to get advice on the phone, it said.
Medicare insurer Humana According to a company press release, socially distant, face-to-face appointments with agents are being offered “based on instructions from local health officials.” rival UnitedHealth Group is postponing its registration efforts online.
“We are holding many community meetings across the country during open registration … (but) we expect many more to be held in a virtual environment,” said Tim Noel, CEO of UnitedHealthcare Medicare and Retirement Plans. He said Zoom-style meetings have been popular with realtors and seniors. “It’s similar to telemedicine.”
Online health insurance brokers expect a surge in demand for phone consultations when Medicare open registration begins later this month. They expanded their staff over the summer, moved their agents from call centers to home systems, and upgraded their websites.
“We’re going to try to use the technology as much as possible for the process to make things more efficient. This includes voice signatures for people who fill out and advertise the program, as well as DocuSign features in multiple languages that our brokers use to sell can complete without having to do so. ” Interact in a personal environment, “said Clint Jones, Co-Founder and CEO of GoHealth.
In order to optimize the telephone calls with the brokers, eHealth launches a new customer center where Medicare subscribers can create a secure permanent profile with information about their current health plan, doctors and medications to make it easier to compare new plan options.
“We obviously didn’t know when we were going to build this, that we would be launching it at exactly a time when seniors are starting to shop more conveniently online and are less comfortable with physical meetings,” said Scott Flanders, CEO of eHealth.
While seniors cannot start signing up for new plans until October 15, You can now browse the plan options. Like the online brokers, the Trump administration has expanded the plan finder and comparison tools Medicare.gov Assist seniors in finding coverage options.
Typically, however, very few seniors change their plans in any given year. An Kaiser family foundation analysis Only 10% of Medicare Part D and 8% of Medicare Advantage participants voluntarily switched coverage during open enrollment in 2016. They will automatically be put back into their current plan if they don’t make a choice.
“I think this could be a year where people are more likely to stick with what they have than make a switch,” said Neuman. “There are so many worries and fears in general at the moment that I think this is too big of a job for a lot of people.”
Medicare open registration runs through December 7th.