Q&A: eHealth’s Bekos highlights efforts to ease medicare enrollment

Jeffrey Bekos, vice president of business development for pharmacy and provider channels at eHealth, discusses how the platform can help retail pharmacies retain Medicare customers and provide savings.

Jeffrey Bekos, vice president of business development for pharmacy and provider channels at eHealth, said that his Santa Clara, Calif.-based company can help retail pharmacies retain Medicare customers and provide Medicare savings. He talked with Drug Store News about how eHealth can provide services to retail pharmacists.

Jeff Bekos wearing a suit and tie smiling at the camera

Drug Store News: Tell us about eHealth.  
Jeffrey Bekos: eHealth created the nation’s first online marketplace for health insurance in 1997. The technology we provide directly to consumers through, and, makes it easy for people to compare health insurance plans and to enroll in the plan of their choice. At eHealth, consumers can enroll in the plan of their choice online or with the aid of a licensed insurance agent over the phone. eHealth has connected more than 8 million people with quality, affordable health insurance. Our proprietary marketplace offers Medicare Advantage, Medicare Supplement, Medicare Part D prescription drug, individual, family, small business and other plans from over 200-plus health insurance carriers in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

DSN: How does your company help the mass retail community?
JB: We help pharmacies in three key areas:  

  • The first is Medicare customer retention: We help pharmacies keep their Medicare customers filling scripts at their pharmacy because those customers are overwhelmed by competing offers to switch plans and pharmacies.
  • The second is Medicare customer savings: We help pharmacy customers review their coverage each year so that, when necessary, they can move into plans that save them money when they fill scripts at the pharmacy — on average, our customers save more than $700 per year.
  • The third way we help pharmacies is to grow their Medicare customer base: We provide programs and resources to help pharmacies attract new Medicare customers who shop at their pharmacy today, but do not yet fill prescriptions. 

DSN: How does the retailer educate the consumer in store and digitally?
JB: COVID-19 has changed consumer shopping behavior. NACDS and WSL Strategic Retail research indicates that 83% of seniors are going online to research and shop for Medicare coverage. eHealth’s playbook helps our retail partners retain, acquire and improve patient loyalty. We use omnichannel marketing to help retailers ensure the highest conversion rates, along with high patient satisfaction. Tactics include in-store media, direct mail, email and text campaigns.  

Every tactic is tracked independently with unique phone numbers and websites so we can effectively measure performance. We provide retailers with Medicare educational content — articles, videos and graphics — that they can brand and use on their website that provides helpful information regarding aging into Medicare. We also provide support for patients who are shopping so they understand key considerations while looking at plans. Our goal is to make the enrollment process as easy as possible. 

DSN: Where is Medicare going in the future? What is your role?
JB: We believe the future of Medicare will be driven in large measure by continued public/private partnership. Medicare Advantage, for example, is one of the very best examples of successful, innovative public/private partnerships in health care today, and increasing numbers of Medicare beneficiaries are signing up. In 2008, 9.7 million beneficiaries were enrolled in Medicare Advantage, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. By 2020 that figure had grown to 24.1 million. Medicare Advantage plans are offered through private insurers that essentially manage enrollees’ Original Medicare Parts A and B benefits. These plans also typically fill in some of the coverage gaps of Original Medicare, most of which include prescription drug coverage, and many offer additional benefits that beneficiaries value. 

There’s a lot of competition in the Medicare Advantage market. Costs have been driven down as a result, with many Medicare Advantage plans available at no cost (beyond the Part B premiums that are already typically taken from their Social Security check). At eHealth, we’ve been charting the increasing popularity of Medicare Advantage and reporting on costs and plan selection trends among enrollees for several years (see our latest report here).