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Social Security checke-Government is a really good idea and there are many initiatives underway to make it happen (see Government 2.0). In some respects the U.S. Government has been a model for using the Internet. The IRS e-file program, for example, has been very successful with nearly 99 million individuals filing their federal income tax returns electronically during 2010. Of the 141.5 million returns filed so far this year, almost 70 percent were filed electronically. There are other parts of the government that just don’t seem to get the idea of “electronic”. When I joined the Medicare program a year ago, I signed up for the Easy Pay program where the monthly Medicare premium is deducted automatically from my checking account. I have now changed my bank and so it was necessary to update various parties that either put money in or take money out of my account electronically. Except for Medicare, I was able to update them all online and have the changes take effect within a few days. Medicare said it was easy to change Easy Pay. Just complete an Authorization Agreement for Preauthorized Payments (Standard Form 5510). No problem. Where do I get that form online? Not available online. The authorization agreement may be obtained by calling 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227). Upon request, 1-800-MEDICARE will mail a Medicare Easy Pay Packet directly to the beneficiary. The Medicare Easy Pay Packet includes a Medicare Easy Pay brochure, an Authorization Agreement for Preauthorized Payments, instructions for completing the authorization form, and a pre-addressed return envelope. All Authorization Agreements must be signed by the account holder and returned in the pre-addressed envelope to the address specified. Processing of the authorization form may take between 30 and 60 days. I called two weeks ago and still have not received the “packet”. Of bigger concern is that somebody thinks this is ok. Electric utilitiy companies have not always been known as model e-businesses, yet the three that I deal with all have an online application that takes just a minute or two to enter a new routing code and account number. Three to six minutes versus 30 to 60 days is not a small difference. Think of the cost of creating, printing, stuffing, mailing, and processing the contents of the Medicare “packet” compared to the electric company’s few mouse clicks. Think of how many employees have to touch the contents of the package. I am not making a political statement, but it is quite obvious that reducing the cost of government by hundreds of billions or perhaps trillions should not be difficult.

Meanwhile, the post office continues to operate 5,000 or so offices that are unprofitable and deliver mail six days per week. They have seen a huge drop in mail because of Internet applications such as e-file, e-billing, Quicken BillPay, electric and telecommunications companies taking credit cards and sending e-statements, etc. Unforutnately for the post office, they haven’t seen the worst of the dropoff. Netflix now offers unlimited streaming for $7.99 per month. They spend $700 million per year with the post office distributing DVDs. The holloywood producers are fighting a losing battle to protect their old models. The $700 million revenue stream to the post office will go to zero. And then along comes Zumbox.  There is still a lot of mail that gets sent, not invoices, but notices of privacy policies, service updates, account information, etc. Billions of pieces of mail. This mail will soon be going to the cloud — to Zumbox. To get a Zumbox account you sign up and provide your email address and your snailmail address. Zumbox goes to AT&T, Charles Schwab, Comcast, JC Penney, and the rest and gives them the addresses of people who have signed up for Zumbox. The companies then send all their mail to those members to the members mailbox at Zumbox. As a Zumbox user, you just login to the Zumbox website and check your mail. The mailers save a bunch of money, we save time from retrieving, opening, and throwing away the paper mail. Unfortunately, the post office revenue decline accelerates. It will not be too long before the post office will not have any mail to deliver.