Despite the acceleration of U.S. COVID-19 cases in March — the third and final month of the Medicare Open Enrollment Period — switching rates among Medicare Advantage beneficiaries during the 2020 OEP were similar to last year’s at 5%, according to new survey results from Deft Research. But with CMS extending certain enrollment flexibilities and the pandemic’s potential impact on in-person interactions, industry experts advise MA plans to have a strong communications strategy in place with existing members while preparing for a more digitally based Annual Election Period (AEP) than the industry has ever seen. The three-month OEP, reinstated in 2019 after a long hiatus, is available only to MA enrollees who want to make a one-time coverage change from what they selected during the AEP. Its return created enough uncertainty among insurers that “carriers and agencies took it seriously” in their responses both this year and last, observed Deft’s senior vice president of client services, George Dippel, in an executive brief released earlier this month on the firm’s 2020 Medicare Open Enrollment Study.
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