For community pharmacists, Open Enrollment can be a time of great opportunity. Pharmacists should know that 9.1 million new patients will enroll for coverage during the 2017 Medicare Part D Enrollment period, in addition to the over 57 million current beneficiaries. It is crucial, now more than ever, for pharmacists to take an active role during Open Enrollment by offering services that help patients understand their plan options.

Why should plan comparisons matter for pharmacists? Plan comparisons are your best option in retaining and even expanding your patient base. Plan comparisons provide the ability to evaluate which plans are hurting your business through low reimbursements and DIR fees. Pharmacists often do not realize how plan comparisons can bolster a better relationship with their patients. The task of comparing dozens of plans is complicated and daunting for patients to conduct on their own. Often, this leaves patients paying more than they should. The LA Times found that only 5% of Medicare Part D patients were enrolled in the lowest-cost plan and those who switched plans saved almost $700 (although pharmacies using iMedicare have seen a higher average patient savings of $1,150). Many patients are unaware that they will automatically be re-enrolled in their current plan if they take no action, which could expose them to changes in benefits and premiums in the new year. It is important to articulate to your Medicare Part D patients that the best plan option this year, may not be the best one for 2017. Offering plan comparisons at your pharmacy encourages patients to explore their plan options, help them switch to a plan that best fits their drug regimen, save them money, and, as a result, become happier customers who will continue filling their prescriptions at your pharmacy. Arming yourself with the right knowledge during Open Enrollment could mean a tremendous amount of money saved for both your pharmacy and patients.

Before Open Enrollment You Should Know:

Who Your Medicare Patients Are:
This may seem obvious, but it is important to know which patients are already on Medicare plans. With a high volume of patients at your pharmacy, it can be difficult to know who exactly to reach out to during Open Enrollment. iMedicare simplifies this for you by providing a list of all patients in your pharmacy that are Medicare eligible. This way you know exactly who in your pharmacy to contact regarding Part D plan options! iMedicare integrates with your existing pharmacy software, which imports all patient information and their respective lists of medications. This will allow you to make quick plan comparisons for your existing Medicare patients. iMedicare allows you to maximize the number of comparisons you conduct throughout the Open Enrollment Period, without taking up a large amount of time out of your daily workflow. The majority of patients are looking for help with Medicare plan selection because Medicare.gov is too complicated for them to navigate. By breaking down their options and helping patients fully understand the inner workings of each plan, you create a more loyal customer base that will be more comfortable with their plans moving into 2017. This means that you will retain those patients and avoid losing them to mail order pharmacies or large chains. The ability to create customized handouts for each patient showing their co-pay on each drug, premium costs, deductible costs, total out-of -pocket cost for the year, and which phase of coverage they are on each month for any desired plan can give your pharmacy a competitive edge. It may be in your best interest to develop a system in targeting these patients during Open Enrollment. It might be useful to designate a time of day for you or a staff member to perform this outreach during Open Enrollment.

Who Is an Upcoming or Newly Eligible Medicare Patient:
You may think it would be more convenient to postpone engaging with these patients until after Open Enrollment because they have a 7 month window to enroll in a Medicare Part D Plan. However, certain Medicare plans won’t make the same mistake. They will start sending your patients letters pressuring them to go to either a large chain or mail order pharmacy months before the patient turns 65. It’s important to reach out to these newly eligible patients before they are contacted by mail order plans and brokers who may use several tactics to try and steer your patients away from your pharmacy. The iMedicare Opportunities Page allows you to reach out to these upcoming or newly eligible patients to invite them in for a free Medicare Part D plan consultation. This helps them to better understand all of their options and continue receiving the excellent service of your pharmacy once they select a Medicare plan. iMedicare enables you to easily reach out to these patients by sending them a pre-written letter or an automated phone call.

What Your Reimbursements Are for Each Plan, and Any DIR Fees Associated with a Plan:
Knowing the estimated annual cost of various plan options, including the separate costs for premiums, deductibles, co-pays, and costs during the coverage gap known as the “donut hole,” can help inform your patients which plan is best for them when doing a plan comparison. By knowing the reimbursements you can expect on each plan, as well as any associated DIR fees, you are able to highlight opportunities that save both the patient and your pharmacy money. Looking into these win-win opportunities is the best way that your pharmacy can take control of its low reimbursements, avoid being taken advantage of by insurance companies, and thrive.

Which Plans Have Restrictions in Place:
The ability to identify any restrictions can save you and your patient headaches later on when they come in to fill their prescriptions in 2017. Patients will want to know which plans cover ALL their drugs, require prior authorization, or step therapy for certain drugs.

Formulary Changes:
Formularies change from year to year. Make sure you know the cost of a patient staying with their current plan, based on the changes made to it for the coming year. While patients may be content with their plans, it’s still important for them to reevaluate their options during Open Enrollment due to these changing formularies and costs. Customers may be unaware, for example, about how a plan’s formulary changes will affect their costs. Several companies, have dropped widely used medications from their formularies. By knowing what the major changes are, you can look into potential plans’ formularies to find alternatives at the click of a button with iMedicare’s Formulary Lookup. Help patients find adequate alternative medications more suitable for their budget, increasing their adherence and your revenue.

How to Alert Your Patients about Open Enrollment 2017:
YOU have the power to inform your patients about the Medicare Part D enrollment process and make it easier for them. Reach out to your Medicare patients and let them know that they can find a plan for next year that meets all of their needs and keeps them coming to your pharmacy. You want to make sure that patients are aware of the plan comparison services your pharmacy plans to offer during Open Enrollment. iMedicare makes this easy by providing you with a marketing package, which includes a foam board, bag stuffers, brochures, stickers, and more to help you reach out to your current patients and community. Printing out fliers to have on the counter or displaying a sign around the pharmacy are quick and easy reminders to patients that you can help them choose the right plan from October 15th through December 7th.

The value in conducting plan comparisons lies not only in helping your patients save money, but also in ensuring that you and your pharmacy staff are aware of the changes in the Medicare Part D plans. iMedicare equips pharmacists with resources that help analyze patients’ plans and provide transparency by showing each plan’s reimbursements and DIR fees. Using this unique tool, pharmacists like you will be able to make the most of the 2017 Open Enrollment period.