It is that time of year again. Time to make the right choices with Medicare supplements and Part D prescription insurance. Medicare supplements and Part D prescription insurance are more difficult to choose and require more work to compare. You can probably keep the same supplement each year unless you move out of state. But you should revisit Part D every year during open enrollment even if your medicines have not changed, because the drugs covered, prices and co-payments change annually. Here are 5 things to think about when comparing supplements or Part D coverage.
1. Part D drug coverage is required unless you have other comparable coverage — even if you don’t currently take any prescription drugs. If you currently don’t have prescriptions, you’ll likely pay less than $20 per month for Part D. But those who regularly take multiple drugs will pay much more. Check with your physician to see if a cost-saving generic drug can be substituted for your prescription.
2. The only way to make sure you are getting the best, least expensive drug coverage is to use the “Plan Finder” tool at the Medicare.gov website. You’ll need your Medicare card to do a specific search. Line up all your prescription drug bottles so you can input the exact name and dosage of the drugs you take. Then click to compare the least expensive plans.
3. You should compare more than prices when choosing a plan. You’ll want to make sure a nearby pharmacy is included in the plan. And if you take expensive prescriptions, you’ll want to learn how much exposure you have to the “donut hole” where you must self-insure a portion of the costs before getting 100 percent “catastrophic” coverage. The comparison tool will help you make that decision.
4. Medicare supplements (Medigap) are easier to compare. Medicare supplements are designed to cover the things that traditional Medicare doesn’t cover, including copayments and deductibles. Although the plans offered by various insurers have different “brand names,” each plan from category A to F must offer the same standardized coverage — making them easier to compare by price. Compare at Medicare.gov or at private marketplaces like www.ehealthinsurance.com, where you can get personalized assistance in making a choice based on your needs. Tip: Ask your physician which insurers’ supplement plans the office prefers, based on their experience.
5. Medicare Advantage. One of the ways to avoid the annual hassle of re-evaluating supplements and Part D coverage is to enroll in Medicare Advantage. These all-in-one plans give you complete coverage for one monthly fee with no deductibles, and they include prescription drugs. But there is a significant drawback, depending on where you live and the plans that are offered. You can only use physicians, hospitals and drugs that are included in your plan.