The deadline for open enrollment for Medicare plans is rapidly approaching. This year, it’s Friday, December 7, although the government is offering an extension to anyone who was affected by Hurricane Sandy. (If you were affected and would like an extension, call 1-800-MEDICARE.)
If you haven’t finalized your decision for the Plan D coverage that will cover your prescriptions because you find the process overwhelming, you’re not alone. But taking the time to figure out which plan is for you, can save you hundreds of dollars. We went to Dr. Alexis Abramson, Ph.D., a leading advocate for senior health and wellness issues, and to Papatya Tankut, the vice president of pharmacy affairs at CVS, for their best tips on how to pick the right plan for you.
Tip #1: Remember to Enroll for Part D
“It seems so obvious, I know, but my first piece of advice to folks is to be sure you enroll. There still are people who think enrollment is automatic, and while in some cases that may be true for Medicare Parts A and B, it is never true for Medicare Part D,” says Dr. Abramson.
Tip #2: Know What’s New
“Each year, plan premiums, deductibles, prescription copayments and annual out-of-pocket expenses can change,” Ms. Tankut cautions. “To choose the most cost-effective plan for you, map out all these elements to calculate the total cost of the plan. And don’t forget to factor in what’s new for you personally, too. If you’re traveling more, or you’ve moved, or have new prescriptions, be sure to take those things into consideration when you select your plan.”
“There are some exciting changes on the horizon in 2013,” Dr. Abramson adds. “Expanded coverage for obesity and diabetes screening will help many lower healthcare costs as you simultaneously improve the quality of your health.”
Tip #3: Ask for Help
“Selecting the right plan can improve your coverage and help save you money,” notes Ms. Tankut, “but the process can be overwhelming. Most pharmacists take their role as trusted advisors seriously, so don’t be afraid to ask for their advice on the best plan for you. They’re well-versed in the options available, have a thorough understanding of the process and are also medication experts.”
Tip #4: Use a Plan Finder
"Online search tools are your friends! They’re great for helping you sift through all the options out there to find the most cost-effective plan and they’re easy to use," says Dr. Abramson. "You enter basic information, like your zip code and the medications you take, and the system will compare all the available plans for you. Medicare has one, as do other companies, like Walmart.
Tip #5: Understand the Importance of Preferred Pharmacies
On a final note, Dr. Abramson encourages you to understand the significance of Preferred Pharmacies. “A pharmacy accepted as “preferred” by a Medicare Part D Plan is a network pharmacy that offers covered drugs to plan members at lower out-of-pocket costs than what the member would pay at a non-preferred network pharmacy. This can make huge difference in what you’ll pay. For example, Walmart is a preferred pharmacy on multiple plans including the Humana-Walmart Preferred Rx Plan. They provide access to the top ten hypertension drugs for just one cent. So if you’re one of the 70% of Americans over the age of 65 who have high-blood pressure, you can get a month’s worth of the medication you need for just one penny! Just one specific example of how it can pay to do your homework.”
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