- About 10,000 baby boomers become eligible for Medicare each day.
- They face a late enrollment penalty if they don’t sign up on time.
- Providing Medicare Part D consultations year-round allows you to serve people when they first face Part D enrollment decisions.
- This builds a framework for a successful Open Enrollment season.
If the only time you are helping patients understand Medicare Part D options is during Open Enrollment season, you’re missing opportunities every day.
That’s because 10,000 baby boomers turn 65 each day. When this day comes, seniors face a new and daunting decision about what Medicare Part D plan to choose. And, if they fail to enroll during their initial enrollment period — which is from three months before they turn 65 until three months after — they face a late enrollment penalty.1
Once these newly enrolled individuals choose a plan, research shows that they rarely switch plans, even if they could save money by doing so.2 One reason for staying put may be the difficulty of understanding the options; that’s where your pharmacy can help.
Provide Part D support year-round
By reaching out to seniors year-round, you demonstrate knowledge and expertise, build customer loyalty, and have the ability to better serve people during the Open Enrollment season, from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7. Since Medicare beneficiaries are expected to account for one-third of total drug spend by 2020, building relationships with these individuals can be a vital part of your pharmacy business.3
“Other pharmacies’ patients come to me weekly for help with their Medicare Part D, and a portion of those transfer their prescriptions to us and become customers of Newbern Drug Health Mart,” said Dayton Keller, the chief financial officer and Medicare Part D expert at this independent pharmacy in Newbern, Tenn. (Visit the Health Mart® Marketing Hub to view a webinar featuring Keller, “Why Pharmacies Lose Patients During Medicare Part D Open Enrollment.”)
These steps can strengthen the support you provide to Medicare beneficiaries:
- Develop expertise. Instead of taking up your pharmacist’s time, have another employee be your Medicare expert. This staff member will work on plan reviews and problem solving year-round. “Experts are going to take some time to grow,” Keller said. “Experts become experts by solving problems.”
- Become familiar with tools. A tool such as iMedicare can pull patient information from your pharmacy system and make plan comparisons much faster than navigating the Medicare website. Year-round reviews will provide plenty of opportunities to become comfortable using the system.
- Reach out to seniors. In addition to placing signs in your pharmacy about the availability of Medicare Part D consultations, consider placing ads at least every few months featuring this service to alert people when they are turning 65. (Find more ways to advertise your consultations in “Make This Year’s Medicare Open Enrollment Count” and “5 Ways to Prepare Now for Medicare Open Enrollment.”)
Schedule outreach to existing customers who are approaching 65, with personal phone calls, emails or letters inviting them to your pharmacy for a consultation. When you complete that first review, remind them that Part D plans change and they will need to review the options again during Open Enrollment. Encourage them to schedule an appointment early during that season. Make it easy for satisfied seniors to refer friends and family members to your pharmacy by providing business cards specifically for Part D consultations. Keller had one customer who referred nearly a dozen others to his pharmacy because of his expertise.
- Track results. Keeping excellent patient records will enable you to better serve people, and tallying the impact of plan reviews can help prove your value in providing this service. For example, during the Open Enrollment season in 2014, Newbern Drug Health Mart conducted reviews for 190 Medicare patients. Of those, 70% decided to change plans, and the savings averaged $688 per patient. One person saved $4,700 because the plan he previously was in had dropped two expensive drugs from its formulary.
Providing information to help seniors make informed decisions is the type of investment that builds relationships. Chains or mail-order pharmacies simply can’t replicate those relationships.
Become a Medicare Part D expert
1 “Part D Late Enrollment Penalty,” Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. LINK
2 “To Switch or Not to Switch: Are Medicare Beneficiaries Switching Drug Plans to Save Money?” The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, Oct. 10, 2013. LINK
3 “10 Essential Facts About Medicare and Prescription Drug Spending,” The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, July 7, 2016. LINK