If you’re of Medicare age, or help family members covered by Medicare, you’re probably already aware that the Medicare enrollment period is from October 15th to December 7th.
This is also your opportunity to sign up for or change your Part D coverage.
For the uninitiated, Part D is Medicare’s drug coverage component. Figuring it out is almost rocket science. But good news – there’s help.
It pays to comparison shop
If you’re signing up for yourself, or helping a parent navigate the Medicare maze, you’ll already know this can be pretty complicated stuff.
Ross Blair, senior vice president at eHealth Medicare, an online broker, was recently interviewed by financial columnist Janet Kidd Stewart.
Blair says that people just entering Medicare, after being covered by an employer’s insurance, aren’t used to this type of comparison insurance shopping. “Many new Medicare enrollees, for example, think there is little variation in prescription drug coverage plans, but the differences are stark,” says Blair.
The lesson: It definitely pays to shop around. Don’t assume all plans are the same. One quick search we conducted for a hypothetical client using just one cholesterol drug turned up plans costing from $15 to $78 per month in premiums. Drug deductibles ranged from $0 to $320, and estimated annual drug costs stretched from a low of $1,442 to a high of $1,885.
There is a lot of free help out there.
1). Start with the Medicare site. The site explains how Part D plans work and lets you find and compare drug plans, health plans, and Medicare Supplement Insurance (Medigap) policies.
2). Take a look at insurance sites like eHealth (1-888-391-2664). They offer comprehensive background information on Medicare and Part D coverage, plus let you search available plans using your zip code and the actual medications you take. The site explains that each Medicare Part D drug plan has its own list of covered prescription drugs called a “formulary.” Since each Medicare Part D plan can cover different drugs, it is essential to evaluate all available Medicare Part D plans in your area. What to look for?
- If your drugs are covered.
- The estimated out-of-pocket expenses you should expect to pay during the year for your drugs and plan premiums.
- If there are any limitations placed on your drugs (e.g., monthly quantity limits, prior authorization).
3). Your favorite drugstore is likely to have extensive online resources. CVS, for example, offers to help you compare different plans to find the one right for you. Plus, selected CVS stores will be hosting events where you can talk to an actual Medicare representative about your plan options.
4). Another option is the Medicare Rights Helpline, a national, nonprofit consumer service organization. You can call them Monday through Friday at 1-800-333-4114, or reach them online. They claim to answer thousands of questions each year from Medicare enrollees and family members, using their trained volunteers to help each caller understand their Medicare benefits, find the right coverage, and understand how any existing coverage works with Medicare.