New research by the Senior Citizens League shows comparing plans also works for Medicare Part D plans, which cover prescription drugs for those with Medicare health insurance. The advocacy group found that the price of a particular drug can vary by hundreds or even thousands of dollars from one Medicare Part D plan to another. So, shopping around for the best plan could save you hundreds, says Money Talks News’ recent article entitled “How to Save Hundreds of Dollars on Medicare Drug Costs.”
The best time to do comparison shopping is during the annual Medicare open enrollment period that starts October 15 and ends on December 7.
The Senior Citizens League’s analysis identified several reasons for which drug prices can vary so much for Medicare recipients, including the fact that most people on Medicare rarely shop around during open enrollment. each Part D plan also has its own formulary, a list of prescription drugs that a plan covers. The federal government, which runs the Medicare program, won’t negotiate drug prices on behalf of Medicare recipients until 2026 when it will be able to negotiate the price of just 10 medications. Until then, each private insurance company that offers Medicare drug coverage does its own negotiating.
There are two main types of Medicare health insurance: Original (or Traditional) Medicare, which is offered directly by the federal government, and Medicare Advantage plans, which are offered by private insurers that contract with the federal government’s Medicare program. Note that original Medicare doesn’t include prescription drug coverage. Seniors on Original Medicare who want drug coverage must buy a separate Medicare Part D plan from a private insurer.
Here’s a checklist for the process:
- Review your current coverage. Look at the Annual Notice of Change (ANOC) that you get from your Medicare Part D plan or Medicare Advantage plan. This will include changes to your current plan that take effect in the new year, if you stay on that plan.
- Do an inventory of your prescriptions. Make a list of all prescription meds you take. For each drug, include the name, dose, quantity taken per day and quantity required per month. You’ll need it to compare drug plans. It is also handy to take with you on each visit to your physician.
- Consider getting help. Medicare recipients have access to free, one-on-one Medicare insurance counseling from State Health Insurance Assistance Programs (SHIPs). To find the SHIP for your state, visit the national SHIP website.
- Narrow down your options. When you know what your Medicare Part D plan or your Medicare Advantage plan will cover next year, and you have a detailed list of your medications, compare that coverage with other drug plans to determine if they’d provide better or cheaper drug coverage. To compare plans, use the Medicare Plan Finder feature at Medicare.gov, the federal government’s official Medicare website.
If you choose to switch to a new plan, go through the Medicare website rather than the insurer.
Reference: Money Talks News (Nov. 11, 2019) “How to Save Hundreds of Dollars on Medicare Drug Costs”