With the open enrollment period for Medicare Part D upon us, let's spend one more month looking at an important aspect in choosing the most appropriate Medicare Part D plan: deductibles. In the last couple of months, I have gone over some very important issues regarding Medicare Part D in 2011: the diminishing coverage gap next year (what great news!) as well as why it is important to read the fine print when choosing a plan rather than looking at the premium alone. Again I would like to remind you that we are currently providing free Medicare Part D assistance for customers in choosing a plan for 2011. Due to the overwhelming response this year from our current customer base as well as the time that we are able to allot to this service, we are currently opening up this service only to current Cooper Drug and Golden Plains customers, although we are making exceptions for new customers willing to give us a try! Now is as great a time as ever to try us out, because so far the scans that we have performed will save our customers on average hundreds of dollars over the course of the year compared to the plan they are currently on.
Anyway, to get back to business, Medicare defines "deductible" as the amount you must pay for prescriptions before your prescription drug plan begins to pay. These amounts can change every year. I like to define it in simpler terms: it's a way for the plan to get an additional amount of "up-front premium" from you before they even begin to start helping you. "Premiums in disguise" are another way to think of deductibles. Currently there are 11 plans in our area with a 0 deductible, 12 plans with a 310 dollar deductible, and 7 plans with deductibles between 40 and 250 dollars. Now I'm not saying that all deductible plans should be avoided. Many times plans with deductibles can offer lower premiums and lower copays once coverage begins (after all you have just given them say 310 dollars UPFRONT to do so!). Deductible plans will most likely benefit those on many medications and incur very large medication expenses each month.
I see many seniors, especially those on just a few inexpensive medications, make the mistake of picking plans base upon premium alone. The lowest premium plans almost always have deductibles tied into them. If seniors do not realize that there is a deductible they oftentimes are surprised when they spend almost the entire year in the deductible phase without getting a single dollar of benefit from their Part D plan. This usually will cause them to spend more out of pocket in the long run rather than picking a plan that might have a slightly higher premium but is better catered to their unique situation. As we wind the year up and look ahead towards 2011, I urge seniors to pay close attention to the details of the prescription drug plan that you are considering. Most seniors only have from November 15th to the end of the year to change Medicare Part D plans.