Getting the Best Value for Your Medicare Part D Dollars

By Kim Ebersole, director of Older Adult Ministry

Did you know that you might be paying more for your medications than you need to if you have Medicare Part D coverage for your prescription drugs? The Medicare website offers tools to help you choose the best plan for your medication needs during open enrollment, now through Dec. 7. 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.

There are more things to consider when choosing a Part D plan than just the monthly premium. The price you will pay for your medications can vary significantly from plan to plan, so you need to consider the total cost–premiums plus the price of prescriptions–when making your decision. It is especially important to make sure all your medications are on the formulary (list of drugs covered) for the plan you choose. If they are not, you may pay full price for those drugs, which can make your cost go up significantly.

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–found the annual cost for those medications and the plan premiums ranged from $443 to $1,905 at a retail pharmacy, and from $151 to $2,066 for mail order. That is a significant price 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 you are signing up for Part D coverage for the first time or deciding whether to stay with your current plan or switch to another during the open enrollment period, the Medicare website makes it easy to check to see what your total annual costs through Part D insurers will be based on your current medications. Not computer savvy? Call Medicare at 800-633-MEDICARE (800-633-4227) for assistance and to sign up.

— Go to www.medicare.gov and click on “Find health and drug plans.”

— Enter your ZIP code and click on “Find plans.”

— Answer the questions about your current Medicare 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.”

— Check to make sure you are viewing 2014 plan data. 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 also can 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 2013 plan for 2014, 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. Choosing the plan that covers your medication needs at a lower annual expense will help you be a good steward of your resources.

–Kim Ebersole is director of Older Adult Ministry for the Church of the Brethren.

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