For the second month in a row, I want to talk about Medicare Part D. Last month I wrote about the great news of the coverage gap narrowing in 2011. This month let's look at how seniors currently on Medicare Part D can decide whether or not they should consider switching to a different plan during the open enrollment period that runs from November 15th to December 31st, looking beyond just the premiums.
One of the many services that Cooper Drug Store offers its customers is free Medicare Part D assistance. We will enter your current medication regimen into an online program that will give you the most affordable plans to consider in 2011. Each year switching plans can save seniors hundreds of dollars and in some rare occasions thousands of dollars over the course of the year. Choosing the most appropriate plan to meet your needs go so much further than just picking a plan with a low premium, as I will soon explain. I want to say it again because I feel like it is just that important: Please, please, please do not decide on a plan based upon premium alone! Please!
Here is why: One trend that I having just recently observed among Part D plans is that they are making some generics "Tier 2" or even "Tier 3" drugs. Basically, generics can be classed into two different groups, expensive ones and inexpensive ones. Up until recently almost all generics were assigned to Tier 1 on most Part D formularies. Tier 1 medications all had the lowest copay of the plan. Thus a generic that might cost 80 dollars would be grouped with the same generics that cost only 8 dollars. The copays would be identical. For the first time in 2010, however, I have observed that some plans have put some of the expensive generics in the Tier 2 or even Tier 3 class. So that same 80 dollar generic might cost you a 40 dollar copay rather than a 0, 4, or 7 dollar copay on another plan. If you do the math just one medication like this might cost a senior almost 500 dollars more over the course of a year just because of this little, easy to overlook difference between one plan and another. Is there a correlation between this and plans with radically lower premiums? It makes you wonder.
This is just one reason why it is ever so important for seniors to explore their options each year. It goes so far beyond just picking a plan with the lowest premium or picking a plan because representatives are set up at the local big box company. Those representatives will probably focus on the premiums, but be careful: those plans are the plans that seniors are going to have to be the most careful about!