Many people are surprised to find out that Original Medicare doesn’t cover prescription drugs. For help with the cost of your medications, you can choose a stand-alone Part D plan or a Medicare Advantage plan with prescription coverage, but navigating your options can be complicated.
With Medicare Open Enrollment running from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7 – the annual window when you can make changes to your Medicare coverage – now is a good time to learn about how to pick a plan that can best suit your needs.
Kent Monical, senior vice president for Part D at UnitedHealthcare Medicare & Retirement, recommends you consider these three things when choosing a plan.
1. Your Drugs.
Prescription drug plans can vary significantly. Each Part D plan has a list of drugs, called a formulary, which shows the drugs it covers.
“When considering a Part D plan, be sure your medications are covered,” Monical said. “Even if you don’t expect to change plans, it’s important to make sure your drugs will still be covered next year, as plans can change from year to year.”
2. Your Pharmacy.
Most Part D plans have preferred pharmacy networks. People can typically get their drugs for a lower copay when they visit preferred pharmacies.
“Make sure the plan offers access to pharmacies that are convenient for you,” Monical said. “Some plans also have mail-order pharmacy benefits, and you can get prescriptions delivered to your home for a lower cost than purchasing from a retail location.”
3. Your Total Costs.
“A low monthly premium plan doesn’t necessarily mean it will be the lowest cost plan,” said Monical. “You should also understand the other out-of-pocket costs, including the annual deductible and drug copays.”
Plans sort drugs into several tiers, with generic or lower-tier drugs generally costing less than drugs on higher tiers. Talk to your doctor about whether a lower-tier drug might be suitable for you, which could help you save money.
The Bottom Line
Medicare Open Enrollment is a great time to make sure you have the right prescription drug coverage for your health and budget needs. Monical concludes, “Exploring your Part D options now could help you save money in 2018.”
Plans are insured through UnitedHealthcare Insurance Company or one of its affiliated companies. For Medicare Advantage and Prescription Drug Plans: A Medicare Advantage organization with a Medicare contract and a Medicare-approved Part D sponsor. Enrollment in these plans depends on the plan’s contract renewal with Medicare.