WASHINGTON (10/13/15)--As prescription drug prices rise, provider networks for Medicare Advantage and individual plans are narrowing. About 30% of enrollees in traditional Medicare might see big hikes in premiums for Medicare Part B. It’s a good time to carefully read the notice you received in September from your Part D or Advantage plan provider (Kiplinger's Retirement Report, October 2015).
The average premium for Part D most likely will remain at roughly $33 a month, but the share of the costs that consumers will have to pay for each drug could increase significantly, as more plans switch from fixed-dollar co-payments to co-insurance based on a percentage.
In addition, be prepared to pay a larger portion of the price for prescriptions when you hit the coverage gap. Also called the donut hole, this is the gap between the initial coverage limit and Medicare’s catastrophic-coverage threshold.
Instead of getting a Part D plan and Medigap supplemental insurance, you can get both medical and drug coverage through a private Medicare Advantage plan. These plans tend to have lower premiums than the combination of Medigap and Part D.
But, when comparing Medicare Advantage plans, don’t focus just on premiums. Advantage plans can have limited provider networks and more out-of-pocket costs, particularly if you require specialty or brand-name drugs.
Here are some money-saving tips to consider as you survey the options:
For help with Medicare Part D, use the Medicare Plan Finder to compare drug plans in your area, view premiums, total out-of-pocket costs, and monthly cost breakdowns for your specific drugs. You also can get help from your State Health Insurance Assistance Program. Visit www.shiptacenter.org or call 800-633-4227 for local contacts.
For related information, read “Benefits of Health Savings Accounts” in the Home & Family Finance Resource Center.