NORMAN — Dear Savvy Senior,Is it important to compare Medicare Part D prescription drug plans every year? My pharmacist recommends it, but it’s such a hassle sorting through all those different plans. What can you tell me?
— Confused Beneficiary
Because all Medicare Part D prescription drug plans can change their costs and coverage each calendar year, comparing plans every year during the open enrollment period (which is Oct. 15 – Dec. 7) is still the best way to ensure you don’t miss out on your best deal for 2013, especially if you take a lot of medications.
Here are a few tips and resources that can help you compare plans with the least amount of hassle.
If you’re comfortable using a computer, you can easily compare Medicare’s drug plans yourself online. Just go to Medicare’s Plan Finder Tool at www.medicare.gov/find-a-plan, and type in your zip code or your personal information, the drugs you take and their dosages, and select the pharmacies you use and you’ll get a cost comparison breakdown for each plan available in your area.
This tool also provides a five-star rating system that evaluates each plan based on past customer service records, and suggests generics or older brand name drugs that can reduce your costs.
It’s also important to keep in mind that when you’re comparing drug plans don’t judge a plan strictly by its monthly premium cost. Low-premium plans are often associated with higher prescription co-payments and may end up being more expensive. Look at the “estimated annual drug costs” that shows how much you can expect to pay over a year in total out-of-pocket costs — including premiums, deductibles and co-pays.
Also, be sure the plan you’re considering covers all of the drugs you take with no restrictions. Some plans may require you to get permission or try a number of cheaper drugs before they will cover certain prescriptions.