Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Mystery of Medicare

I've been thinking a lot about Medicare lately, partly because Medicare and the possibility of cuts have been in the news. I am certainly no expert on health care; smarter people than I are stymied by how to reform health care, including Medicare.

So I'm not going to talk about that.

I'm going to talk about what I know.

Open enrollment begins on November 15. For those of you not on Medicare, this means that this is the time when people on Medicare can change their Medicare Part D plans or their Medicare Advantage plans.

This is important because with my own mother we have been able to save money every year by switching her Medicare D plan. Each year the insurance companies change their formularies (lists of covered medications) and they can raise premiums or deductibles.

The easiest way to compare plans is to go to the Medicare website. You will need a list of prescription medications in order to get the best information. Once you enter the medication information, you will get the lengthy list (over 50 providers in North Texas) of different plans available. It is possible to even choose your preferred pharmacy and compare prices at different pharmacies.

There are some things you need to watch for.
  • If you have a Medicare Advantage plan that you like, DO NOT change your part D plan. If you choose a part D plan, you be dropped from your Advantage Plan. All Advantage plans have prescription drug benefits built into the plan.
  • If you have Tricare for Life, you probably don't need a part D plan, because you already have coverage with Tricare.
  • If you have coverage through a retirement plan, read your new options carefully. Some companies are only offering Advantage plans, and you might not want to sign up for one of those plans, because your doctors may not be providers.
  • If you are just now eligible for Medicare A and/or B, be sure to sign up for a part D plan. If you wait too long you might be penalized.
All of this information is available in Medicare and You 2010 publication.

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