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Medicare Drug Plans – It pays to shop

Medicare Drug Plans – It pays to shop
If you or your parents are in a Medicare prescription drug plan, you might save hundreds or even thousands of dollars by comparing your insurance plan’s costs to others offered in your area.
We found that some Medicare drug plans are hiking their costs for premiums and five common prescriptions by more than $1,900 next year – the equivalent of about two month’s worth of Social Security checks.
Costs vary dramatically because unlike regular Medicare, drug coverage is offered by private insurance companies. And Congress prohibited Medicare from requiring the insurers to negotiate lower drug prices – even though the Veterans Administration is allowed to negotiate and gets veterans up to half off the cost of drugs.
“Those folks who simply stick with their current drug plan and fail to check next year’s drug prices and premiums could face financial disaster come January,” says Bill Vaughan, CU senior health policy analyst.
Open enrollment began Nov. 15 and continues until Dec. 31. During this time, you can switch to any plan without penalty. But remember, you must stay in the plan for all of 2008.
We also found that while many insurance plans are cutting monthly premiums for next year, they actually are hiking costs for the five common prescription drugs monitored in the study. So don’t just look at the premium or you could be in for sticker shock next year.
“Just because you see your monthly premiums go down, don’t assume your drug costs won’t go up, perhaps dramatically,” Vaughan adds.
How to Shop
Write down the prescriptions you take, or expect to take, next year. Then go to www.medicare.gov and look for the “Medicare Prescription Drug Plans – 2008 data,” where you can check premiums and drugs costs of plans in your area.
If you are a Medicare beneficiary, the Medicare and You book you should receive this month from the government will also have information on Part D plans in your area. You can call 1–800–Medicare, too.
Or click here for our downloadable tips on shopping for a drug plan.
Tell Us – Are you happy with Medicare Drug Coverage?
We’re working to improve Medicare’s prescription drug coverage so it makes sense for seniors and taxpayers. We’d like to know your experience with the program – is it worthwhile or not? Did it cost less or more than you hoped? Were your drugs covered?
Take a minute to answer a few questions. Your real-life experiences help us when we ask Congress for changes in this important program.
You can help lower drug costs
Consumers Union doesn’t think it makes sense to prohibit Medicare from negotiating lower drug costs for seniors. And we think Medicare should be allowed to offer drug coverage in addition to those offered by private insurance companies.
It makes sense to give seniors the choice of a Medicare-run drug plan that uses the government’s bargaining muscle to get lower prices. If you think so too, take a moment to send an email to Congress supporting legislation to make this happen.