While the COVID-19 pandemic complicated many smaller Medicare Advantage organizations’ efforts to connect with members during the Medicare Annual Election Period (AEP) last fall, reports of aggressive and misleading marketing practices also resulted in the unintentional disenrollment of individuals from their plans, which not only hurts from a revenue perspective but can negatively impact their star ratings. According to several sources who spoke with AIS Health, a division of MMIT, these tactics were more egregious than usual during the 2021 AEP and the Open Enrollment Period (OEP) that ran from January through March, when members who selected an MA plan in the fall may make a one-time coverage switch.

“We’ve always seen some very aggressive marketing practices, especially from some of the large, national players. But over the last two years, and especially in the last six months, it’s gone from aggressive marketing tactics to what many plans would qualify as teetering on the side of deceptive marketing practices. And it’s not just one large player,” says a source who works with health plans and asked not to be identified for this article.

In his work with the RISE Association, where he formerly served as executive director and is now an emeritus director working with members of RISE’s Medicare Member Acquisition & Experience community, Kevin Mowll says several regional plans after the last AEP expressed concern about so-called lead generators that sell consumers’ information to large brokerages like an electronic marketing organization (EMO) or a field marketing organization (FMO), both of which work with numerous national MA sponsors.

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