Archive for June, 2005


Take a listen to an interview with Mike Wise, IdeaStar’s Vice President of Insurance Technologies, regarding the upcoming Medicare Part D launch. He tell you why it’s the biggest opportunity ever to hit the senior insurance sales market and how you can capitalize on it.

Just click on the link below to listen to our blogcast of this interview with Mike.

Get Ready for Medicare Part D


Ready or not, blogging is here. And its business value is becoming more and more apparent – even in the insurance industry. Just look at what BusinessWeek Online had to say. “Go ahead and bellyache about blogs. But you cannot afford to close your eyes to them, because they’re simply the most explosive outbreak in the information world since the Internet itself. And they’re going to shake up just about every business – including yours… Given the changes barreling down upon us, blogs are not a business elective. They’re a prerequisite.” (BusinessWeek Online 5/2/05)

Well, that’s pretty straight forward. But how do you get started with a blog (short for Web log)? Join me Thursday, June 23 at 4 p.m. for a “Beginner’s Guide to Blogging.” I will facilitate a “Webinar” presented by the Inter-Company Marketing Group. Register at

ICMG is an association of primarily health and life insurance carrier marketing executives.These people are ideal candidates for blogging because they are already experts on various insurance products, in terms of design, distribution, and administration. Just think of the information they have to share!


In a previous post, I mentioned that CMS would likely be accepting online enrollments for Medicare Part D – the prescription drug plan for seniors. This has been confirmed. As to the nature of the e-signature requirements for online enrollments, I am starting to receive more definitive guidance. This week, I received an email response from CMS that said the following:

“CMS will permit individuals to complete an enrollment request online. The process we envision is similar to the one used in the drug card program, and will be optional for PDP sponsors… More information describing online enrollment will be provided in PDP enrollment and disenrollment guidance in the coming weeks.”

So what are the essentials of the e-signature process for the drug card program? Based on my research on existing DDC enrollment sites, it seems to be a fairly standard, easy-to-implement e-signature workflow. The essential CMS elements seem to include:

  1. Required CMS language – CMS verification, disenrollment notice, etc.
  2. Enrollee provides their confidential personal information in the workflow – SSN, HIC#, Credit Card for fees & premium, and other data as necessary
  3. An “I Agree” button and related language
  4. “Intent to enroll” language
  5. Legal explanations of e-signature

A good model is the enrollment engine @

More to follow…


Good news! e-signature will be acceptable for Medicare Part D enrollments. At the conference last Friday @ CMS HQ in Baltimore, this word was officially announced. I’m amazed, though, that in order to get that information, a question had to be submitted. Actually, it had to be written on paper and stuffed in a box!

What struck me is that the focus of the Part D marketing is primarily paper-based enrollments. However, I’ll give CMS credit – they are producing a Web site for beneficiaries to find a plan and enroll, and, are starting to make that known. Handled correctly, a Web-enabled Part D education, enrollment, and member login will prove to be the best method for handling this plan for a number of key reasons:

  1. As you look for a pharmacy or a drug, would you rather search through a paper directory or simply enter your zip code or drug and have the information retrieved for you? As a Plan Provider, would you rather produce and print thousands of directories or invest in a Web portal for your members to do the searching at a fraction of the cost?
  2. Curious how the Medicare drug benefit actually works? Enter a few factors into a calculator and see how your pocketbook will be effected. I can’t image trying to figure that all out with a paper guide. I know Plan marketing folks will do a great job, but there are so many variations and different options, plan designs, etc. It will be hard to decipher.
  3. Since CMS is accepting an endorsement process (so the beneficiary doesn’t even have to do an e-signature, just approve their enrollment), agents, caregivers, children, and of course the beneficiary themselves, can enroll online simply and easily.
  4. With the right site design, ongoing ‘benefit-management’ by the member can also be greatly assisted. Wouldn’t it be great to save your Plan’s site in your favorites, open it up when you use the benefit, login, and use a tool to keep track of your drugs and out-of-pocket costs, etc.? Yes, the monthly EOB will come from the Plan in the mail, but people often like to keep track of the data themselves. Why not an easy-to-use Web-based tool for the member?
  5. And “oh, by the way…” everytime a beneficiary accesses the site, opportunities to cross-sell other products and services present themselves – again, with effective design.

So the Web seems like a good idea, if only to reach 50% of the market (though seniors and their caregivers use the Web more than that, especially for health care info). Yet, in my limited discussions with folks at the conference (Blue Plans, regional Plans, etc.), only one had specific Web enrollment designs ready to go. The prevailing Web strategy is simply to have a Web site up that explains the Plan’s participation in the program and regurgitate the benefits – sort of like “OK, we can check that off the to-do list.”

Perhaps as word gets out about our capabilities (and we are by no means the only game in town), people will call us about getting something effective developed and launched by September 1st for CMS review before the marketing period starts. IdeaStar Insurance Technologies is available to take on a couple more Part D clients among all the other projects we’re engaged in – FCFS!


I met one today. I’ll call him Joe. He’s been in and around insurance for the last 20 years. Now he’s making a move, buying up a few struggling carriers, small blocks that have been led by tech-resistant exec’s who say “No” to anything unfamiliar (like anything Internet). I can’t wait to see what Joe does, now that he’s partnering with a Web developer that can make his ideas a reality. He’s got a vision of taking on the rest of medium-sized carriers (not necessarily the big guns like Humana and Anthem) with high-powered technology and creative products. He’s both chasing Net-ready agents and planning to sell direct.

While I was waiting to go in to see Joe in his humble, suburban Chicago office space, the latest issue of I&T fell out of my bag – cover story: Tech Savvy CEO’s. The article made some interesting and timely points. Bill Pieroni, GM of IBM Global Insurance Industry, says that true (i.e. authentic, effective, engaged, ethical, etc.) leadership has a “vision for the future and considers, from a stewardship perspective, what is going to be the fundamental basis of competition 5, 10, even 15 years from now.” I guess the undertone in that statement is… enough with the decision-making that only looks 90-days out; enough of the endless CEO cliché’s maximizing shareholder value while serving the customer, blah, blah, blah. On the contrary, let’s make every effort to do our homework, read, study, communicate, understand, and give meaningful new insights into where the market should go and how to best compete on that playing field over the long haul.

OK, I’ll admit, I’m not a CEO. I only talk to them day-in day-out. Maybe if I was a CEO, I would have greater empathy for the RRRREST of the story. But sometimes it seems that when the CEO finally gets to that position, at least in the Health and Life biz, he or she kind of runs out of gas and goes into protection mode, stops working on his or her skills, only reads the “in” books, etc., etc.. (Actually, mostly the “he’s” – the “she’s” don’t seem to fall into that trap as much, perhaps because there’s fewer of them.)

The article goes on to say that tech savvy CEO’s need to steer their technology in three areas: core insurance capabilities (policy admin and U/W), distribution and products. It seems that very few are (or have been in the last 10-15 years) “exhibiting the longer-term vision and leadership and investing discretionary dollars in this core.” You got that right! But that just leaves more room for the tech savvy CEO like Joe. He’s laughing all the way to the bank. …Now I’m doing my own cliché’s!
On to some cold, hard facts…. Zurich NA: their cost ratio went from 32% to 20% after a three-year process of redefining core processes and leveraging technology. Axel Lehmann says “Do what you have to do and do it right.” As my Dad used to say all the time to me during the log-home building days of my youth, “Do it now. Do your best.” AFLAC’s Dan Amos, an admitted non-tech guru, talks about his SmartApp laptop enrollment system, now handling 88% of new app’s, 58% of which are issued without further intervention – better, faster, cheaper as I like to say – including a 50% reduction in “defect rates.”

Lastly, Mike Frazier of Genworth had a couple excellent comments. First, he points out that effective leaders must look outside the company and industry for business models that drive innovation. “That forces leadership and the individuals within the organization to be good learners.” Exactly! He also mentioned being struck by the lack of technology focus in the insurance vertical as compared to financial services, his background. Perhaps his most compelling thought is that “technology is currently reshaping the industry’s competitive landscape,” an example being his digitalized new-business process. Lastly, with sort of a haunting comment for non-tech-savvy health and life CEO’s: “A business fights against commoditization every day. You have to fight with product innovation, distribution innovation, process innovation, technology innovation, and people innovation.” That’s excellent.

So what does all this mean? If you’re a non-tech-savvy insurance executive – Get in the Game! Shift your focus from the routine to the unfamiliar – right now, today. For those that are blazing the tech trail in health and life, keep it up and spread the word. And, oh yeah, IdeaStar Insurance Technologies can help with the Web quoting and enrollment part! ;-) Rock ‘n Roll…

Archives to 2005