Here’s an update on Medicare Part D enrollments. The final Prescription Drug Plan (PDP) Enrollment Form is still not available. The model application was sent out on 7/25 with an open comment period through 8/1. The enrollment guidance form also indicated that credit card payments of the monthly premiums for the plan will not be allowed by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Only a paper billing process or the Social Security check deduction and PBM reimbursement will be allowable collection methods for the PBM’s. That’s new — the Discount Drug Card (DDC) had credit card e-commerce built in and CMS said in June that Part D would use the same enrollment process.

As of this writing, few people believe that seniors will enroll using PBM Web sites. Most believe that enrollments will either happen on the medicare.gov Web site, or on paper in the presence of agents. The primary rationale for this thinking is that DDC program saw the vast majority of online enrollments come through the CMS site. Of course most PBM Web sites do not have an enrollment engine, and if they do, the enrollment process has a design that scares prospective members away. The same can be said for the DDC sites – no enrollment available, or a badly designed one that scared away the seniors. If anyone has data to the contrary, I’m all ears.

Note also that with the DDC, pharmacists were allowed to enroll their beneficiary clients online. That is not the case with Part D. Too bad CMS disallowed it for Part D – pharmacist-assisted enrollments seemed to work well for one of our clients in the DDC program. I think they had a few hundred thousand enrollments that way.

Personally, I think there is a significant opportunity for online Medicare Part D enrollments, not only for the mass-enrollment between 11/15/05 and June ’06, but in the future as baby-boomers retire. As supporting data, I ran across an interesting article dealing with seniors and Internet usage. Click here to read the full article. My takeaway from the article is that:

  1. The senior population is the fastest growing Internet user group.
  2. There are about 5.5 million Internet users aged 65+, and,
  3. There are another 16.5 million Internet users aged 50-64.

One would think developing e-signature enrollment and customer service sites for the Medicare market would provide a positive ROI, not only for now, but even more so over the next 10-15 years.