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!