It may be the lock-in period, but that doesn’t mean you have to put your business on lock-down.

There are quite a few to ways to unlock more sales during Medicare’s nearly 10-month off-season, and working with beneficiaries in state pharmaceutical assistance programs (SPAPs) and their Special Enrollment Periods (SEPs) is one of them.

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In 2014, nearly 91 percent of Americans age 65 and over used at least one prescription drug and just over 40 percent used five or more in one month, according to a CDC study. For the roughly 80 percent of seniors who suffer from at least one chronic condition, the ability to receive prescription medications can mean the difference between life and death. But, with limited incomes, paying for prescription drugs or Part D coverage can be tough.

The good news is those over 65 years old who meet certain income and resource parameters may be eligible for Extra Help in the form of a Low Income Subsidy (LIS) from Medicare or an SPAP that can help them pay for their prescriptions. Working with seniors in SPAPs is an excellent way to solve the dilemma of how to make sales during lock-in. But before we delve into why they’re valuable right now, let’s define what they are.

What is an SPAP?

An SPAP is a state-operated program that offers prescription drug assistance to seniors with low incomes. Funded by the individual states, these programs may pay for qualifying seniors’ Part D coverage completely or simply lower the cost of their prescription drugs. Depending on the state, these programs may also cover qualifying seniors’ Medicare Part D monthly premiums and copays.

Working with seniors in SPAPs is an excellent way to solve the dilemma of how to make sales during lock-in.

SPAPs vary by name, eligibility, and details. Furthermore, some states provide programs which help people with specific illnesses. For instance, there are states that offer End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) drug assistance programs and/or HIV/AIDs drug assistance programs (ADAPs).

Why are SPAPs Important Right Now?

Here’s the real treasure. Medicare beneficiaries who qualify for Extra Help or an SPAP are automatically eligible for an SEP. They’re given a window of opportunity outside of open enrollment during which they can make changes to their health insurance.

Since so many Americans may qualify for Extra Help or SPAPs, it’s important that you are aware of your clients’ special enrollment options.

Seniors who qualify for Extra Help can join, switch, or drop Medicare Part D coverage at any time with their SEP. Those who qualify for SPAPs can join or switch an MA or Part D plan once per calendar year.

How Can SPAPs and SEPs Benefit Your Clients?

Besides the fact that SPAPs can help your clients afford prescription drug coverage, their SEP can also help your clients save even more on an MA or prescription drug plan (PDP). This is crucial considering that the average Social Security monthly benefit for retired seniors was only $1,360 in 2017 and approximately 23 percent of married seniors and about 43 percent of unmarried seniors relied on Social Security for 90 percent of their income in 2017, according to the Social Security Administration.

With Extra Help or SPAP eligibility, your clients have at least one opportunity throughout the year to swap their current plan for a more affordable one.

How Can SPAPs and SEPs Benefit You?

If you’re working in the senior market, you already know the Annual Enrollment Period (AEP) is the busy season. However, AEP occurs only 54 days out of the 365-day calendar year. Working with beneficiaries in SPAPs and those with SEPs can help you bring in new business during the long off-season.

Don’t be locked out during lock-in. Go out and build a bigger, better business with your improved understanding of SPAPs and their SEPs.

Since so many Americans may qualify for Extra Help or SPAPs, it’s extremely important that you are aware of your clients’ special enrollment options. As you know, your clients’ needs can change without notice. By being a resource for their different enrollment options, you can show your clients your expert knowledge, prove you have their best interest in mind, and build client loyalty.

Don’t be locked out during lock-in. Go out and build a bigger, better business with your improved understanding of SPAPs and their SEPs.