Older Adult Ministry Offers Advice for Getting Best Value for Medicare Part D Dollars

Older adults may be paying more for medications than they need to if they have Medicare Part D coverage for prescription drugs, reports the denomination’s Older Adult Ministry office. The Medicare website offers tools to help choose the best plan for medication needs during open enrollment, Oct. 15 through Dec. 7 this year.

“By entering your medications, you can see the annual cost for all the plans in your area. You may be surprised by what you find,” says Kim Ebersole, director of Older Adult Ministries.

Ebersole says there are more things to consider when choosing a Part D plan than just the monthly premium. The price a participant pays for medications can vary significantly from plan to plan, so the total cost–premiums plus the price of prescriptions–should be considered when making a decision about a plan.

It is especially important to make sure all of a participant’s medications are on the formulary (list of drugs covered) for the plan you choose. If they are not, the person may pay full price for those drugs, which can make the cost go up significantly.

“I did a test comparison between Part D plans for three medications that treat health conditions older adults often experience: high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and acid reflux,” Ebersole reported. “I found the annual cost for those medications, plus the plan premiums, ranged from $384 to $3,660 at a retail pharmacy, and from $512 to $3,471 for mail order. That is quite a difference for the same three medications. It pays to do some checking before signing up to ensure you are getting the best value for your money.”

Whether signing up for Part D coverage for the first time during the initial enrollment period, or deciding whether to stay with a current plan or switch to another during the open enrollment period, the Medicare website makes it easy to check to see what the total annual costs through Part D insurers will be based on a person’s current medications. Not computer savvy? Call Medicare at 1-800-633-MEDICARE (800-633-4227).

— Go to www.medicare.gov and click on “Find health & drug plans.”
— Enter your ZIP code and click on “Find Plans.”
— Answer the questions about your current coverage and click on “Continue to Plan Results.”
— Follow the directions to enter your drugs. When you have entered all of them, click on “My Drug List is Complete.”
— Select your pharmacies and click “Continue to Plan Results.”
— Select “Prescription Drug Plans (with Original Medicare)” and click on “Continue to Plan Results.”
— Scroll down to see Prescription Drug Plans. Click on “View 50” to see more plans on your screen.
— Choose “Lowest Estimated Annual Retail Drug Cost” to sort results, then click “Sort” button.
— Scroll down the list. The annual prices of both retail pharmacy and mail order are in the left hand column.
— You can click on individual plans to see more information about coverage and costs with that plan. You can also select up to three plans at a time to compare pricing by checking the box next to the plans and clicking on “Compare Plans.”
— If you decide to remain with your current 2012 plan for 2013, you do not need to do anything. If you wish to switch plans during the open enrollment period (Oct. 15-Dec. 7), you can enroll online by selecting the plan and clicking on “Enroll” or you can enroll by phone with the number provided by the plan.
— The tools can also be used when you sign up for Part D for the first time.

“It pays to make sure you are spending your healthcare dollars wisely,” advises Ebersole. “Choosing the plan that covers your medication needs at a lower annual expense is being a good steward of your resources.”

For more about the church’s Older Adult Ministries go to www.brethren.org/oam .

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