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Wednesday September 28, 2022

Savvy Living

Savvy Senior

How to Find a Better Medicare Prescription Drug Plan

My pharmacist highly recommends that I compare Medicare Part D prescription drug plans each year, but it is such a hassle sorting through all those different plans. Is there an easier way to shop and compare Medicare drug plans?

Because Medicare's prescription drug plans can change their costs and benefits from year-to-year, comparing Part D plans every year during the open enrollment season from October 15 - December 7 is always a smart idea.

Even if you are happy with your current coverage, there may be other plans out there that offer better coverage at a lower cost. You never know until you look. Here are some tips to help you shop and compare Medicare drug plans.

Medicare Online

If you have internet access and are comfortable using a computer, you can easily shop for and compare all Medicare drug plans in your area and enroll in a new plan online if you choose. It only takes a few minutes.

Use Medicare's Plan Finder Tool at Medicare.gov/find-a-plan and choose your preferred type of coverage. Enter your ZIP code and financial assistance (if you receive any), select the drugs you take and their dosages, and choose the pharmacies you use. The plan finder does the math to identify the plans in your area that cover your drugs at the lowest cost.

This tool also provides a five-star rating system that evaluates each plan based on past customer service records and suggests generic or older brand name drugs that can reduce your costs.

When you are comparing drug plans, look at the estimated drug costs plus the premium costs. This shows how much you can expect to pay over a year in total out-of-pocket costs.

Be sure the plan you are considering covers all the drugs you take with no restrictions. Most drug plans today place the drugs they cover into price tiers. A drug placed in a higher tier may require you to get prior authorization or try another medication first before you can use it.

Any changes to coverage you make will take effect Jan. 1, 2022. If you take no action during open enrollment, your current coverage will continue next year.

Need Some Help?

If you need some help choosing a new plan, you can call Medicare at 800-633-4227 and they can help you out over the phone. You can also contact your State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) for free Medicare counseling. Typically, each SHIP conducts seminars during the open enrollment period at various locations throughout each state. To find a local SHIP counselor see ShiptaCenter.org or call 877-839-2675.

Financial Assistance

Individuals who are having a hard time paying medication costs may be eligible for Medicare's "Extra Help" program. This is a federal low-income subsidy that helps pay Part D premiums, deductibles and copayments.

To be eligible, your income must be under $19,320 for individuals or $26,130 for married couples living together, and your assets (not counting your home, personal possessions, vehicles, life insurance policies or burial fund) must be below $14,790 for individuals or $29,520 for married couples. For more information or to apply, call Social Security at 800-772-1213 or visit SSA.gov/extrahelp.

Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living" book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization's official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.

Published October 8, 2021
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