Making Better Happen for Medicare AEP Marketers

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About the Author

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Deborah Quinn

As a National Sales Director, Deborah brings more than 30 years of direct marketing industry experience to support IWCO’s clients multichannel marketing campaigns. Her 15 years’ extensive experience in the healthcare vertical drives her ability to offer unique insights and understandings that maximize business results. Her favorite business philosophy is “As a team we can accomplish anything for our clients.” This St. Louis Blues fan enjoys golf, skiing and any activity that gets her outdoors into nature.

The use of the direct mail channel is crucial to revenue generation for major health insurance companies during the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period (AEP). The AEP season runs from October 15 to December 7. In 2022, these companies sent out 483 million mailpieces to consumers who are 65 or better to promote their Medicare Advantage products. The AEP is a critical period for healthcare insurers to capture new members and attempt to retain current members.

Building a Successful AEP Campaign

How do you build a successful AEP direct mail campaign? And how do you stand out in the mailbox and set your offer apart from your competitors?

It all starts with data. Building the correct model and determining targets based on member profiles is the essential first step. Using advanced analytics to mail more to the right prospects and less to the wrong ones is key. Segmentation helps align policy and benefits on the record or individual level not on clusters. Using data sets for specific segments, like veterans, to drill down further in the prospect universe creates more granular targeting. In addition, the use of geo-coding to apply meetings closest to the consumer in the late October touches can be critical.

The second step in building a successful AEP program is the creative development. Apply the learnings from the data to develop unique creative content and formats. Using best practices of direct mail still applies to AEP. Strong CTAs in multiple areas, the use of side bars and Johnson boxes to promote specific benefits, building unique icons to explain benefits, and of course maintaining brand standards throughout. Build a creative plan that has multiple formats―possibly a unique format per touch during AEP―to avoid “mail fatigue” and capture recipients’ attention. The size and format of the envelope should change as often as budget will allow. And the use of texture or trailing edge die-cuts on envelopes will stand out in the thick stack of mail the consumer receives during this time. Additionally, provide possible USPS postage discounts that could reduce budget up to 4%. Testing is difficult to do in the short window of AEP, but during age-in months from January through September it is possible to test creative and format and apply those learnings to the AEP timeframe.

The third component to simplify the world of AEP marketing is having a workflow that marries creative with data driven variability. At IWCO, we call our platform TECHImpact. We have developed a technology solution that reduces the daunting task of managing so many “versions,” business rules, sources of truth, and regulatory requirements. TECHImpact reduces cycle time, mitigates risk, and provides the ability to easily manage thousands of iterations within a single campaign. The use of many creative versions with highly segmented data can be daunting, but this cloud-based solution offers the ability to manage AEP work faster, with fewer resources and reduced costs.

The fourth step is building an “in-home” mail plan that will ensure the proper number of touches and quantity per mail drop to align with client resources to handle calls and setup meetings. It is also critical that the mail does not hit in-home before October 1, as penalties from Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) can be imposed. A detailed in-home plan should be developed weeks before the first mail shipment to ensure an optimized drop cadence to support robust response. 

Executing a Successful AEP Campaign

Now onto the production process. IWCO’s advanced digital platform allows every letter and envelope to be unique. It gives marketers the ability to apply advanced segmentation and variability on a record level to create 1 to 1 messaging, which can result in up to 60% improved AEP performance. Our hybrid inline process using the latest digital print technology allows us to create a single mailstream for each physical mailpiece format, even for a campaign that has millions of iterations.

Our unique finishing equipment adds the “bells and whistles” (promotional cards, variable personalized inserts, and four-color personalization on the envelope) that enhance the data-driven messaging in each mailpiece.

This process provides greater opportunity for postage savings, which can be 60% of the budget for direct mail campaigns. Coupled with our own commingling process, IWCO can provide the lowest postage cost to the health insurance vertical.

So, building a successful AEP program is simple―you just need the decades of experience at IWCO. Our team are experts at building and managing very complex AEP programs. If you want to learn more about this blueprint, please contact me at

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