Today I have another guest post about Medicare benefits by Ross Blair, CEO of PlanPrescriber. One of today’s topics is how to save money on prescription medications.
It’s amazing what some people will do for $600. For that much money, you could take a weekend jaunt to the mountains, make several trips to the grocery store or go visit the grandkids.
What’s even more amazing is what some people will not do for $600. In 2010 the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found that 90 percent of people don’t change their Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage each year. If they had done it last year, they might have saved over $600.
When PlanPrescriber.com reviewed people’s drug utilization and selection process during last year’s Medicare Annual Enrollment Period, we found that the average person would have saved $654 on a prescription drug plan and $605 on a Medicare Advantage plan by switching to a plan that better fit their particular prescription needs.
Why don’t more people on Medicare review their drug coverage?
It’s difficult to speculate as to why more Medicare beneficiaries don’t review their drug coverage each year. The prospect of saving $600 should be appealing to the average senior, especially when you consider that the median income for people in this age group was $19,167 in 2010, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
The perceived time commitment involved may dissuade some people from reviewing their options. According to an Opinion Research survey sponsored by PlanPrescriber, over half (59 percent) of seniors on a Medicare prescription drug plan expected it would take more than 30 minutes to review their drug coverage. About one in five (19 percent) expected the process to take them over an hour. What they may not realize is that spending 30 minutes to an hour to review and select coverage could save them hundreds of dollars.
These beliefs may have arisen from the fact that the majority of seniors (89 percent) had no plans to use the Internet to help them review their drug coverage. The number isn’t surprising when you consider that Internet usage is not a way of life for many older Americans. But, in fact, websites like PlanPrescriber.com and Medicare.gov are designed specifically to make the plan comparison process simpler, quicker and easier. After inputting their ZIP code, people can compare plans side-by-side with just a few clicks.
Like last year, the Annual Enrollment Period is closing earlier than usual, running through Dec. 7. Though Medicare beneficiaries have eight weeks to select their coverage, last year 42 percent of people waited until the last nine days to apply. However, this is not a decision you want to rush or put off until the last minute. Last year federal officials extended the Dec. 7 deadline by three days for certain people because of an influx of last-minute sign-ups. You can avoid the rush this year by starting to compare plans now.
What makes the review process necessary?
Medicare Part D plans do not cover every drug available, and when your drug is not covered by your plan, you may pay full price for that drug out of your own pocket. What’s more, even Medicare Part D plans that do cover the same drugs don’t always cover them at the same price. That means that a drug that costs you $50 on one plan may cost you $75 on another.
Not only will different plans cover different drugs and often at different costs, but each drug plan also has different monthly premiums. The costs and coverage details of individual drug plans can change from year to year. That’s why it’s so important for Medicare enrollees to review their drug coverage options every year during the Annual Enrollment Period.
How can people on Medicare save money on prescription drugs in 2013?
1. Pick the right drug plan. People who review their Medicare prescription drug plan during the Annual Enrollment Period have the potential to save money by making sure their plan gives them the best price for their drugs.
2. Go generic when possible. Some very popular drugs, like Lipitor, went generic in 2012. You can use this year’s Medicare Annual Enrollment Period to find a plan that covers the generic alternative to your branded drugs and make the switch. If you use PlanPrescriber.com’s drug plan comparison tool, it can tell you whether your drugs are available in generic form. It’s a good idea to talk to your doctor or pharmacist before making a switch to a generic.
3. Comparison shop for pharmacies. Pharmacies can, and often do, charge different prices for prescription drugs. Even pharmacies in the same chain may have a slightly different price for the same prescriptions. Websites like PlanPrescriber.com and Medicare.gov will show the drug plan’s price, but it’s not a bad idea to call the pharmacy in your area to confirm pricing.
4. Try mail-order drugs. Typically when you order drugs in the mail, you get a 90-day supply instead of the 30-day supply you get from a local pharmacy. This, and other factors, may save consumers about 35 percent, on average, over what they would pay for drugs they buy at the local pharmacy, according to PubMed.gov.
Ross Blair is President and CEO of PlanPrescriber, Inc. , a leading provider of comparison tools and educational materials for Medicare-related insurance products.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has neither reviewed nor endorsed the information provided by PlanPrescriber.