Archived Story

Are you paying too much for your Medicare drug plan

Published 5:12pm Tuesday, September 27, 2011

As a senior, I was thrilled when I finally became eligible for Medicare. And with that benefit, I found that I had several decisions to make. Among them, which prescription drug plan or PDP was going to be best and most cost effective for me?

The reason I mention this is because too many seniors assume the plan they’ve always been on is the best plan for them.

Some seniors don’t know how to research drug plans, and some are just too darn lazy to do their own homework.

According to a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation study, only 10 percent of drug plan participants change their annual coverage. The bottom line is that the typical senior is in the wrong prescription drug plan and can end up overpaying thousands of dollars for their prescription medicines every year.

In a survey done in Florida and reported by Laura Green of the Palm Beach Post, more than 94 percent of Florida seniors could have saved money by switching PDP plans, and on a national level, more than 90 percent of Medicare beneficiaries would have been financially better off with a different plan.

Some states like Florida offer Medicare recipients a wide array of plans to choose from, particularly compared to other states. While that provides plenty of opportunity to find a great plan, it also increases the confusion as to how to make the best choice for the best plan for each senior.

With this calendar year quickly drawing to a close, many seniors are going to be surprised to learn that the federal government has moved and shortened the enrollment period for next year’s program choices to Oct. 15 through Dec. 7.

Previously, seniors had until the end of the year to make a choice.

Some Medicare Advantage plans offered by private providers do include drug coverage, while seniors on traditional government-run Medicare must choose a stand-alone drug plan. Remember, because of yearly changes, a great deal of your own money may be saved for just a few minutes of effort in selecting the best PDP plan for you.

There is assistance available as well as several free prescription drug plan comparison tools available to help you make the best decision. One can be found on the Internet at Medicare.gov. Another is PlanPrescriber.

To give you an idea of how much difference there can be between plans, PlanPrescriber found that in Palm Beach County, Florida, a senior on the medicines Lipitor, Advair and Nexium – three popular and frequently prescribed drugs – the annual costs of prescription drug plans covering those medicines in that area varied from $1,857 to $4,317 – over $2,400 difference for the same drugs.

Isn’t that enough incentive to make you want to check for the best drug plan?

Remember, choosing a plan has to be right for you, based on your prescription needs.

Asking a friend what plan he or she uses is not the best approach. Your drugs are unique to your medical needs. If there was ever a time to step up to the plate and avoid being lazy in your decision-making process, this is it. There may be a lot of money at stake, and since it’s your money, making good choices matters.

Ron Kauffman is a geriatric consultant and planner in private practice in Henderson and Polk Counties.

He is the author of Caring for a Loved One with Alzheimer’s Disease, available at the Polk County Senior Center.  His podcasts can be heard weekly at www.seniorlifestyles.net. You can reach him at his office at 828-626-9799, on his cell at 561-818-0039 or by email at drron561@gmail.com.

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