The big event has finally arrived. I received the e-mail Wednesday from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. There will be a one-day Medicare Part D Marketing Material Guidelines Training, June 3, 2005 at the CMS Auditorium in Baltimore, Maryland.

The 2005 Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit (PDP) Marketing Material Guidelines Training is designed “so that those individuals who are directly involved in marketing material development and its dissemination will gain an understanding of the rules and processes that will govern the marketing activities of PDP organizations. Attendees of the conference will be the first to be formally trained on the new Medicare Part D Marketing Guidelines, including a walk-thru of the Health Plan Management System (HPMS) Marketing Module and the marketing materials review process. This will also be an opportunity to meet and better understand the CMS customer service process being implemented to assist plans in receiving approval of their marketing materials and support marketing activities.”

Netting it out, the HPMS sounds like a CMS “extranet” for Part D participants to get marketing materials approved, we’ll hear about the marketing materials development and review process, and a review of the required marketing materials themselves — both pre- and post-enrollment. Advertising and telemarketing will also be covered.

Interestingly enough, the Agenda does not reference Web-based materials. Again, as I mentioned in a previous post, I’ve heard from many sources that Web-based enrollments would be accepted. FYI, today I’m sending an e-mail back to CMS requesting the subject of Web enrollments be included as an agenda item. There are already a number of companies out there planning to use online Web enrollment as an easy way to reach potential customers, to increase efficiency, and maximize cost-control.

As with paper-based materials, any Medicare Part D Web site will also need to be approved by CMS. They’ve said that they will need at least 30 days for that process. Now if sites are to be live by Nov. 15, that really means the site needs to be CMS-certified by Nov. 1 in order to accommodate agent training and marketing. Development would thus need to be done by October 1. It’s May 20. We have four months and one week left – yikes!

Outside of IdeaStar, the industry buzz seems to indicate that most of other Part D companies have not begun developing Web-based enrollment processes (I’d be curious if any readers know otherwise). With 29 million enrollments within the first six months and only a $60 1st year commission available per enrollment (not including renewals), every cent saved through technology will count. A paper-based scenario will take a big chunk out of the $60. Paper enrollments will be a big challenge, especially if you factor in a typical 20% kick-out rate due to issues with completeness, legibility, accuracy, etc., etc…

So if you are considering offering Medicare Part D enrollments online, time is short….