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How--and why--to shop for lower-cost Medicare drug plan
WASHINGTON (12/4/07)--Sticking with your current Medicare prescription drug plan could get costly. In fact, everything about prescription drug plans can change significantly from year to year, so health-care advocates are encouraging you to shop around now--before it’s too late (U.S. News & World Report Nov. 7). You can enroll, re-enroll in your current plan, or switch to any Part D plan--without penalty--during the enrollment period, which runs from Nov. 15 until Dec. 31. Whatever plan you have on Jan. 1, though, is the one you’ll have for all of 2008. But if you don’t take time to shop around now, you could be in for sticker shock in 2008, even if your plan had a reasonable premium in 2007. Since drug coverage is offered by private insurance companies, be on the lookout for significant price increases from year to year. But don’t just compare monthly premiums: Some insurance plans are cutting the monthly premium while increasing costs for the most common prescription drugs. Others are increasing your co-pay, or even limiting the number of pills covered. Consumers Union offers these tips for serious comparison shopping for a Medicare Part D plan:
* Make a list of all meds. Write down all the prescriptions you take now and those you expect to take in 2008. * Check local plans. Go to medicare.gov (use the “plan finder”), call 800-Medicare, or look through the “Medicare and You” book you should have received in November from the government. All three resources will have information on Part D plans for your area. * Understand the risks. Unfortunately, Part D plans can change the price of drugs they cover, as well as their formularies (list of drugs the plan does and doesn’t cover), even after you enroll. * Stick with unsponsored sites. If you conduct a Web search for Part D, most sites listed are sponsored by Part D plan sponsors and therefore are promotional in nature. Rather, use the Medicare Rights Center website at medicarerights.org for high-quality, easy-to-use, independent information. * Get a “drug check. Ask your doctor to review the drugs you take to make sure you’re taking medicines that give you the best value for your money. For alternatives to high-priced drugs, visit CRBestBuyDrugs.org. * Consider low-cost alternatives. Some discount stores offer a 30-day supply of some common prescription drugs--typically generic--for a standard price of $4 or $9 .
For more information, read, “Does Your Generic Drug Make the Grade?” in Home & Family Finance Resource Center.
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