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Analysis

Understanding the next wave of Medicare enrollees

Medicare Advantage plans may need new strategies to capture and retain younger Baby Boomers

Approximately 26 million Baby Boomers will age into Medicare through 2030. This next wave of Medicare enrollees referred to as “trailing edge” is different from “leading-edge” Boomers, many of whom have already enrolled in Medicare. As this next wave of our population ages into Medicare, will health plans be ready to capture and retain them? Explore key characteristics of this unique population.

Understanding the next wave of Medicare enrollees: A quick look at key characteristics

Medicare Advantage plans may need new strategies to capture and retain younger Baby Boomers.

The next wave of Medicare enrollees will likely require different strategies, tactics, and capabilities

Many researchers describe two groups within the Baby Boomer generation: "leading edge" and "trailing edge." Trailing-edge Boomers are the next wave of Medicare enrollees, while leading-edge Boomers have mostly aged into the program already. While they might be more likely to select Medicare Advantage (MA) products, as they typically have extensive experience with employer coverage, networks, benefit designs, and health plans that offer MA products, health plans should consider how this next wave differs from the last in order to capture future Medicare market share.

National data on population-level trends and Deloitte’s surveys of health care consumers show that trailing-edge Boomers differ from their leading-edge counterparts in many ways:

  • Trailing-edge Boomer women are more likely to have been in the workforce. Moreover, many trailing-edge Boomers are retiring in new areas of the country, staying in their homes longer as they turn away from traditional retirement communities, and facing dire financial circumstances as they look to retire.
  • Many trailing-edge Boomers have higher rates of diabetes and obesity than their older peers. However, evidence suggests that many have better control of their health conditions, and may have some healthier habits than their older peers (e.g., lower smoking rates).
  • Consumer surveys suggest that trailing-edge Boomers approach health care and coverage differently than leading-edge Boomers. Trailing-edge Boomers turn to different sources when seeking information about health plans. Also, many are dissatisfied with their current health plan—overall and when asked about their coverage and experience.
  • Consumer surveys have also found that trailing-edge Boomers already use health technology more than their older counterparts, and many are interested in new technologies to support aging in the home (e.g., telemedicine, remote-patient monitoring (RPM)). However, privacy and security concerns may give many pause as these technologies become increasingly available.

MA is expected to be an important product for many health plans as they seek to grow enrollment and maintain positive margins. Understanding the characteristics, engagement behavior, technology use, and beliefs of trailing-edge Boomers may help health care plans adapt their strategies accordingly.

Health plans should consider adopting several strategies as they seek to attract and retain this next wave of Medicare enrollees. For example, new partners, such as home and community-based organizations, may offer services that can help trailing-edge Boomers stay in their homes and get care in preferred settings longer. New solutions to support these services also may be required (e.g., care managers, transition coaches).

Segmentation, whether to determine appropriate outreach and communication strategies or to understand trailing-edge Boomers’ patient-activation levels, could help health plans retain these enrollees longer. Trailing-edge Boomers may also need new tools—whether to help manage chronic conditions or to integrate technology into their care—to stay activated in their health care and engaged with the health plan.

Many health plans have been targeting, attracting, and engaging leading-edge Boomers since the first individuals turned 65. But, the next wave is different and will likely require different strategies, tactics, and capabilities to win with this important customer segment.

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Trailing-edge Boomers may need new tools to stay activated in their health care and engaged with the health plan.

How can health plans attract and retain future Medicare enrollees?

The experience of aging into Medicare is a meaningful one for individuals and families. Many future beneficiaries are likely worried about how the decisions they make about coverage will affect their financial security into and through retirement.

Trailing-edge Boomers considering their future Medicare coverage options may be bombarded with information from multiple sources and need help to cut through the clutter to understand which Medicare benefits are right for them.

Health plans should consider providing simpler communications in both traditional print and online formats and tools to assist in comparing coverage options given an individual’s historic and potential future benefits usage.

Health plans also should consider developing strategies to identify new partners; developing new services to assist members as they age (e.g., care managers, transition coaches); segmenting their populations to develop appropriate outreach and communication strategies and patient activation levels; and offering solutions to help trailing-edge Boomers manage chronic conditions, stay active in their health care, and engage with their health plan.

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Trailing-edge Boomers considering their future Medicare coverage options may be bombarded with information from multiple sources and need help to cut through the clutter to understand which Medicare benefits are right for them.
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