Medicare Part D drug coverageby Denise Early on Oct. 26, 2009, under Health
Medicare Part D drug coverage was introduced in 2006 and seniors were told they should sign up for this new program. With monthly premiums around $15 per month and lots of advertising about this new Medicare benefit, most seniors and Medicare beneficiaries enrolled in a drug plan.
Three years later, monthly premiums average $35 per month and some plans have skyrocketed to $59. If you are unhappy with your Part D plan premium you can only make a change once per year: November 15 – December 31.
If your 2010 premium will be higher than $45, you might want to consider changing plans, but this is not a simple task.
****I should point out that 40% of seniors in Tucson are enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans which include get Part D. People who have a Medicare Supplement, or just Medicare would buy a “stand-alone” Part D plan, and those are the people I’m addressing here.
You can sign up for new Part D coverage or change your current Part D drug coverage between November 15 and December 31st, and your coverage would begin on January 1st, 2010. While Part D is a Medicare program, the drug plans are provided by insurance companies.
To find the right plan for yourself, you can go to www. Medicare.gov and click on “compare drug plans”. You put in your zip code and the system will give you a list of companies offering drug plans in your county. There are 46 drug plans offered in Pima County (!!??).
If you take brand name drugs you will want to use the function on the Medicare site that allows you to put in your prescriptions info. The system then tells you the best plans based on the drugs you take. You see, each company has a different “formulary” and some drugs might not be on every company formulary. As well, some brand drugs are a tier 2 on one company’s plan and a tier 3 on another company’s plan. Tier 2 drugs might have a $30 co-pay while tier 3 could be $70 – a very big difference.
The next thing you will look at is cost, and the lowest cost plans come up at the top of the list of plans offered in your county. These plans cost between $17 and $20 dollars per month, but most people don’t choose these plans because they have a deductible of $310. This means you must pay the first $310 of your prescription costs – while paying $18 per month.
Most peope who take several brand drugs will choose the higher priced plans, which run between $34 and $60. I see that Unicare has a plan with no deductible for $25/month, but you’d need to be sure all your medications are covered in their formulary. Unicare is owned by Wellpoint, which is the largest health insurance company in the U.S.
The most popular drug plan is the AARP Preferred plan for $35.20 per month. United is the actual insurance company for the AARP plan and they have a large formulary.
So, if you think your Part D premium is too high, you do have some options – if you are willing to do some research through http://medicare.gov .