Open Enrollment, which is the period when people on Medicare can change plans without penalty, ends on December 7th. Why should someone reexamine their prescription drug plan annually? Each year, Medicare Part D plans can and do make changes in their premiums, their formularies, coverage and sometimes which pharmacies they will work with. These factors then affect the total out-of-pocket costs enrollees will pay.
The average older adult takes four or more prescription drugs per day, 39 percent of seniors take five or more. While daunting to figure out how to change, it can be well worth the effort.
According to a 2019 report from eHealth, 90% of people enrolled in a Medicare Advantage Prescription Drug (MAPD) plan could save an average of $1,144 by switching plans.
Here are instructions for those who do not wish to set up an account. You will need to enter your drug names and precise amounts.
- To shop for drug plans, visit Medicare.gov
- Select "Continue without logging in"
- Next select either Medicare Advantage or Drug plan (Part D). You will then be asked to enter the zipcode where you will be purchasing your medications.
- On the next screen, you are asked if you want to see drug costs between plans, as well as whether you want pricing based on purchasing your prescriptions through a local pharmacy or through a mail order pharmacy or both. (NOTE: If you or your loved one lives in Assisted Living, Memory Care or Skilled Nursing, find out what pharmacy they use.)
- Next you will enter each prescription you or your loved one takes, as well as the dosage. You will be given the option to use a generic version if one is available.
- When you have finished entering all your medications, enter your address and the distance you wish to drive and select "Done." This will generate a list of pharmacies.
- Select those pharmacies you prefer, then select "Done."
- This will generate a list of plans.
- There is then the option for you to enroll in the plan you prefer while online.
To get an idea of what the range in costs were, I entered four prescriptions frequently taken by seniors. The system generated 31 drug plan options, ranging in annual cost from $358 to $1,940. Yes, that's right. In my hypothetical case, there was a $1,582 difference in cost for the same four drugs.
The process took me 15 minutes. If I could realize a savings of $1,582 from 15 minutes of effort, that would clearly be a worthwhile use of my time.
Are you one of the 87% who did not change plans last year? It might be worth it to at least see how much you could save.