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Offer help year-round to seniors becoming eligible for Medicare

In brief:

  • Every day about 10,000 baby boomers become eligible for Medicare, providing a year-round opportunity for your pharmacy.
  • Because the initial Medicare enrollment process can be so frustrating, many beneficiaries stay with the same plan year after year, even though switching could save them hundreds or thousands of dollars each year.
  • Becoming a trusted resource for people as they first enroll in Medicare can build long-term loyalty among seniors, who are high users of prescription medications.

Going beyond Open Enrollment

The Open Enrollment period for Medicare is an extremely important opportunity for pharmacies to conduct outreach and assist patients. (See Make This Year’s Medicare Open Enrollment Count).

But if you limited your outreach to Medicare customers to only the Open Enrollment period, you’re missing a very big opportunity.

Demographic trends

Every month about 300,000 seniors turn 65 and face the daunting task of selecting Medicare coverage for the very first time. Because they are eligible to sign up for Medicare for three months before and three months after their birthday, you have plenty of opportunity to reach and assist those people.

The opportunity for independent pharmacy

Being a trusted resource for people making a decision that could cost them thousands of dollars a year allows you to show your expertise and build a loyal base of customers who tend to take many medications. Among people age 65 and older, three-quarters take an average of six prescription drugs.1

Beyond your plans to reach out during Open Enrollment, the following actions can expand the number of Medicare beneficiaries you reach:

  • Be available regularly. Hold monthly or quarterly educational sessions in the community for people about to turn 65, at locations such as your local public library or senior center. Provide a general overview session and invite people to schedule personal appointments in your pharmacy for individual consultations.
  • Analyze your database. Identify current customers who will turn 65 in the next four months, and reach out to them by phone, mail or other messaging to explain that your pharmacy is available to help them with their initial Medicare decision. Be sure they know that failing to sign up for Medicare on time can result in a penalty of paying higher premiums for the rest of their life. Schedule follow-up contacts with people who don’t respond the first or second time. Remember, they have three months after their 65th birthday to sign up.
  • Make referrals easy. As you hold consultations during Open Enrollment, and with individuals throughout the year, offer cards they can easily pass along to friends and family members who will be turning 65. Include a brief statement about how your pharmacy can help and the number to call to schedule an appointment.

Personalize the experience

As you prepare to compare Part D drug plans, ask what is important to each customer. For example, some want to be on the same plan as a spouse, but it is important for them to know if that will be a costly decision. Others want to be sure a specific medication will be covered. (Find many ideas for making the most of Medicare consultations here.)

Make it ongoing

Once you have given customers information for enrolling the first time, remind them to check their options every year during the Open Enrollment period. Help them understand that plan coverages may change each year, so the best plan for them today may not be the best plan next year.

Tell customers when your pharmacy starts scheduling appointments for Open Enrollment season, and ask if they’d like a reminder from you to set up an appointment before they face their first Open Enrollment.

A Kaiser Family Foundation study of Medicare beneficiaries found that many stayed with the same plan once they enrolled because the initial enrollment was so frustrating.2 If you can make that first enrollment easier, they may be willing to check their choices every year, and keep coming back to you as their trusted source of information.

 

1 “Medicare Patients Struggle with Prescription Prices,” Consumer Reports, June 21, 2016. LINK
2 “How Are Seniors Choosing and Changing Health Insurance Plans?” Kaiser Family Foundation, May 13, 2014. LINK