With the arrival of the Medicare annual election period, now is the time to compare your Part D plan to make sure you have the best “deal” for 2018. Guide to Choosing a Part D Prescription Drug Plan
First of all, it is important to understand that, each year, the Medicare Part D prescription drug plans have the ability to change their benefit structures, including premiums, deductibles, co-pays, networks and formularies. This means that keeping the “status quo” from year-to-year carries with it some definite risk. It is advisable to re-evaluate your Part D selection annually to ensure you have the plan that most closely fits your needs. Guide to Choosing a Part D Prescription Drug Plan
Part D is the part of Medicare that covers prescription drugs. It is, technically, a “part” of Medicare; however, Part D plans are sold through private insurance companies. CMS, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, has oversight over Part D plans and approves them on an annual basis.
Each Part D provider decides how they are going to structure their plans. They may choose to have a higher premium and lower co-pays or vice versa, for example. They must meet Medicare’s minimum standards for what drugs they cover, but within those standards, they have flexibility in designing a formulary (list of covered drugs) and co-pay structure.
In early October of each year, the Part D plans for the following year are released. Around that same time, you should receive a notice in the mail from your current Part D provider, showing how the plan’s coverage and premium is changing for the next calendar year. This is the time that you should compare Part D plans. Guide to Choosing a Part D Prescription Drug Plan
Comparing Part D plans is actually relatively easy to do if you have some computer savvy. It can all be done on Medicare’s website, www.Medicare.gov. To compare the plans, you can use the “Medicare Plan Finder”. It can be a little difficult to use if you have not used it before – this step-by-step guide to comparing Part D plans on Medicare.gov may be helpful.
Another alternative to comparing the Part D plans on Medicare.gov is asking your local pharmacy, or pharmacist, for help. Many pharmacies now offer this service to their customers. They already have a list of your medications, so they can plug those in to the “Medicare Plan Finder” and make a recommendation that way.
The way the plan finder works is that it ranks the plans in order of lowest overall annual cost to you. It takes into account the drug plan premium, the deductible and the co-pays on each plan. This way, the results are customized to your specific medications and situation, and you can make an informed choice. Guide to Choosing a Part D Prescription Drug Plan
Once you have done the Part D comparison, you may find that you should just stay with the same plan. If this is the case, you do not need to take any action, as the plans renew automatically if you make not changes.
If, however, you see that you should choose a different plan that would cover your medications more thoroughly or give you a lower overall annual cost, you can do so easily.
One option for changing your Part D plan is to do it directly on Medicare’s website. Changes can be made between October 15 and December 7 of each calendar year.
The other alternative for changing your Part D plan is to contact the new plan directly, either online or by phone, and enroll in the plan of your choice.
Any time you change Part D plans, Medicare automatically takes you out of the old plan when they approve your enrollment into the new plan. In other words, you do not have to proactively cancel the old plan – it happens automatically when you are enrolled into the new plan. All plan changes take effect on January 1, as the plans run with the calendar year.
Overall, comparing Part D plans annually is a crucial part of a sound financial plan for someone on Medicare. You should take the time to compare and make any needed changes for next year during this annual election period. Guide to Choosing a Part D Prescription Drug Plan
Guide to Choosing a Part D Prescription Drug Plan Guide to Choosing a Part D Prescription Drug Plan Guide to Choosing a Part D Prescription Drug Plan
Garrett is the founder/President of Secure Medicare Solutions, a leading, independent Medicare insurance agency. Since 2007, Garrett has worked with tens of thousands of people turning 65 or already on Medicare to understand, compare and choose Medicare insurance that fits their specific needs and situation.
His latest project is 65Medicare.org, an online hub for people just starting with Medicare, which is focused on distilling difficult Medicare questions into easy-to-understand resources.
Garrett resides in North Carolina with his lovely wife, Celeste, and three spirited children.View All Articles