COVID-19 has upended our lives in many ways, Medicare not least among them. As a result, many older Americans missed out on their Medicare selections, whether their Initial Election Period (IEP) or some other kind of Special Election Period (SEP) took place this spring. Now, as seniors begin to emerge from the shelter-in-place, they need to address their healthcare needs and make important Medicare decisions.
Thankfully, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has created a solution. They’ve developed a COVID-19 SEP to ensure all seniors, even those affected by the virus, can get the Medicare coverage they need in these unprecedented times.
Here’s everything you need to know to help your clients take advantage of this vital SEP.
Who qualifies for the COVID-19 SEP?
Just like every other SEP, there are strict rules about who can and cannot participate.
If any of your clients want to take advantage of the COVID-19 SEP, they must have been eligible to participate in another election period, like IEP, SEP move, SEP- loss of EGHP, etc. between March 1 and June 30, 2020.
The SEP only applies if they did not make a Medicare selection, either to enroll or disenroll, during their previously scheduled enrollment period. For example, if a beneficiary had their IEP in April and made a selection during that time, they can’t use the COVID-19 SEP as a reason to change the selections made in April.
This is a nationwide SEP for every senior, whether the beneficiary lives in hard-hit New York City or relatively unscathed Montana. But the COVID-19 SEP has no geographic restrictions, unlike most other disaster-related SEPs.
How can I enroll a client in the COVID-19 SEP?
If you have an eligible client who wants to make a Medicare selection during the COVID-19 SEP, use the election code SEP DST on their application.
Once enrolled, the new Medicare plan will take effect the first of the month after receiving the client’s enrollment request. In some cases, if your client wants, you can request a specific effective date.
How do I promote the COVID-19 SEP to my clients?
Technically speaking, like most other SEPs, you can’t specifically promote the COVID-19 SEP. So refrain from sending out a mailer or e-blast to clients you think may be interested in making a change during this enrollment period.
Instead, evaluate each client’s eligibility for the COVID-19 SEP before reaching out to them. You probably already have a list of clients who were eligible for other enrollment periods during the last three months. Use this information to create a solid list of prospects and reach out accordingly.
Additionally, if you need to get in touch with clients for any other reason during this time, whether it’s to disenroll, reenroll or simply just check-in, take the time to evaluate their current coverage. You may discover a worthwhile prospect if they’re eligible to participate in the COVID-19 SEP.
Don’t forget to offer distance enrollment
When you do start to make your calls, be sensitive to your clients’ concerns for their health and safety. Most seniors are understandably still wary about going out in public or meeting one-on-one. But you can easily work around those issues.
Reach out by phone or email. Depending on what your client prefers, and assure them you can take care of everything remotely. Making a Medicare selection during the COVID-19 SEP can be a contact-free process, and you should tell your clients so.
The COVID-19 SEP is a great opportunity for you and your clients. Take the time to plan out your approach, and you’ll have a positive impact after the turbulence of the last few months. Everyone, your clients included, wants to see life return to normal, and this is an important step in the right direction.
image credit: shutterstock/Flamingo Images