The open enrollment period for 2015 Medicare Advantage health plans and Medicare Part D stand-alone prescription drug plans ended Dec. 7.

The enrollment period started Oct. 15.

The insurers that sold the Medicare plans probably enrolled or reenrolled more than 13 million people in Medicare Advantage plans during the enrollment period and about 10 million in Medicare Part D plans.

Aetna, Cigna, Humana, UnitedHealth Group and other issuers, brokers and lead generation firms have run many Medicare product television commercials in recent weeks, according to iSpot.tv.

But the enrollment period attracted relatively little attention. 

It’s not yet clear whether that calm was the sign of a fine-tuned, smoothly running enrollment machine purring along, or whether the calm was a sign of marketing problems.

For more thoughts about the enrollment period, read on. 

Marilyn Tavenner

1. Marilyn Tavenner, the administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), had the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) on her mind.

Managers of the locally based exchange in the District of Columbia complained early in the year, when CMS was scheduling the PPACA public exchange annual open enrollment period for Nov. 15, 2014, through Feb. 15, 2015, that running several open enrollment periods at the same time would strain regulators, exchanges and exchange plan issuers.

Having the Medicare enrollment period overlap with the public exchange enrollment period may have strained regulator and issuer resources this year.

News organizations, including this one, have run many more news articles about the public exchange open enrollment period than the Medicare enrollment period, and members of Congress have complained to Tavenner and other CMS officials mainly about the PPACA exchange program, not about the Medicare Advantage program.

See also: Exchanges gear up for 2015

Image: CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner (AP photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Ebola

2. The start of the Medicare open enrollment period overlapped with the peak of U.S. interest in Ebola.

One lesson here is that, when helicopters swirl over Dallas because residents face the possible spread of Ebola, that gets more media and social media attention than a Medicare plan enrollment period.

Man stares at a blank wall

3. Box scores attract eyes.

CMS probably has more information about Medicare product sales at this point than about PPACA exchange plan sales, or could find a way to get sales data, but it’s already released two weekly exchange plan activity reports and no Medicare plan activity reports. 

Private companies publish Medicare product sales data starting a few months after the enrollment period ends, but no one is publishing the kind of near-real-time activity data that draws so much attention to the exchange plans.

See also: PPACA exchange users may be standing pat