Marketing your Medicare agency is one of the most important things that your insurance company can do, but how you market your company is also very important. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) have set forth the rules on marketing and communications for all Medicare and Medicaid plans including Medicare Advantage and Medicare Prescription Drug Plans.
You are responsible for ensuring your compliance with CMS’s most current communication and marketing regulations in the Medicare Communications and Marketing Guidelines (MCMG). In some cases, you may be able to impose even more restrictions on subcontractors or delegated entities.
Communications and Marketing Definitions
According to Zeller Media, it is extremely important to understand the distinction between what the MCMG considers marketing materials and communications materials. Communications materials provide information to prospective or current enrollees, their caregivers, and other decision-makers associated with that perspective or current enrollee.
Marketing materials, on the other hand, are defined more by the type of influence used by a plan, sponsor, or agency to help a beneficiary in the decision-making process of selecting a plan for enrollment. When they are using marketing to encourage a beneficiary to stay enrolled in their plan rather than change it, then this is referred to as retention-based marketing.
You can and should consider sending mailings and building a website so that you can inform your target audience about your services. You do want to state in your generic materials that you are a licensed agent and you want to include information about what services you provide in your area. You should also include necessary disclaimers when needed to inform your audience that you are not connected to or endorsed by Medicare or any United States government agency.
You definitely want to tell people about the Special Enrollment Period and when individuals are eligible for it so that they don’t miss an important deadline. This is something great that you can talk about in a blog or in a video. However, you may not market Open Enrollment, or an individual’s chance to change plans at that time.
Just as important as knowing what to do is knowing what you should avoid. It goes without saying that every year you must check the MCMG guidelines for any changes. It will list what activities are prohibited. For example, according to Section 1140 of the Social Security Act, a consumer protection law against misleading advertising, certain words are forbidden from being used in marketing materials if they suggest any endorsement or approval from Medicare or any other government agency. These include:
- “Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services”
- “Department of Health and Human Services”
- “Health and Human Services”
In short, it’s best for agents never to use the word Medicare on marketing materials, such as business cards. This would be a violation because listing the word “Medicare” on a business card suggests that you are an authorized representative of Medicare.
You may also not engage in unsolicited contact with anyone who is not giving you explicit permission to contact them. This means that you cannot engage in:
- Door-to-door solicitations
- Telephone solicitations
- Text message solicitations
Email communication is allowed as long as receivers have the ability to opt-out of future emails.