Q. How does the calculator know which Part D plans to show?
A. The calculator pulls information from the federal government’s Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services to our Web site. This information is sorted by ZIP code, so by entering your ZIP code, you’ll see that the calculator pulls up only the plans that serve your area. There can be as many as 200 Part D plans per ZIP code!
Q. Where do the drug prices come from, and how accurate are they?
A. The calculator draws its prices from the Part D plans that are registered with the Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services. The pricing information is updated every two weeks by DestinationRx, the vendor that assists AARP in offering this calculator. The prices the calculator gives are close estimates of what patients would find at any participating pharmacy.
Q. What if I use a mail-order pharmacy?
A. The price the calculator produces might differ from what your mail-order pharmacy charges you. Even so, the two most useful things about the calculator are the "Any options to save?" feature, which recommends less expensive alternatives, if they exist, and the letter to the doctor for you to print and discuss with your doctor(s).
Q. What if there are no less-expensive alternatives?
A. If you find there are no less-expensive options for your prescription medication, here are other resources to check:
- Find out whether or not you qualify for Extra Help through Medicare Part D’s Limited Income Subsidy by visiting the AARP QuickLink. If you qualify, your medication expenses will go way down.
- Check out the state-by-state information on State Health Insurance Counseling Programs (SHIPS) www.shiptalk.org. Your state may have a program that supplements your Part D plan.
- Look into public and private financial-assistance programs listed by the Partnership for Prescription Assistance, www.pparx.org.
- Visit www.needymeds.com, a nonprofit organization offering information to people who cannot afford medicine or health-care costs.
- Last but not least, consider putting all your prescriptions and over-the-counter medications in a bag and bringing them to your pharmacist and/or the doctor who knows you best. Your doctor should be able to tell you if you need all of those medications. At the very least, an annual review of what you’re taking and why is always a good idea. Watch a video about “Brown-Bag Drug Evaluations” at the video archives, www.aarp.org/caregivers.
Q. Is my privacy truly protected if I use AARP's Doughnut Hole Calculator?
A. The calculator is designed to give Part D enrollees the best guidance using the least amount of information you need to share. By entering in the ZIP code for your community, and by selecting which Part D plan you’re enrolled in, you could be one of thousands of Part D enrollees of that plan. There is nothing you type into this tool that would reveal your identity, including your specific medications. Notice that you never have to enter your name, address, or Medicare number.
Because this tool does not save the information you enter into it, and the calculations it makes when you use it, please consider printing the following:
The wallet-sized drug list (from a Print button you can find to the right and above "Your Medicine Cabinet" on the "View Report" page)
The "View Report" page, which will give you the Doughnut-Hole-Calculator prediction of your monthly costs and your medication list.
And the letter to the doctor, which will list all the medications you entered in.
Q. I can click on the buttons on the top: 1, 'Select Plan,' 2, 'Enter Drugs,' 3, 'View Report,' but nothing happens when I click on 4, 'See Options.'
A. That's because you have to pick which medication you want to check out for less expensive options. Scroll down to the bottom of the "3, View Report" page to find the Medicine Cabinet, and then find your drug options by clicking on "Any options to save?"
Q. The calculator tells me I probably won’t hit the doughnut hole this year. Is there anything else the calculator can do for me?
A. Yes, two things: First, you can print out a wallet-size drug list for yourself and loved ones to carry in case you have an emergency. You can also pull it out of your wallet every time a doctor, nurse, or pharmacist asks you to list what drugs you are talking. Second, you may be able to further reduce your out-of-pocket costs. See if any of the medications you’re taking have "Any options to save?"
Q. How can I see which drug is covered each month and the amount that is covered?
A. Underneath the Doughnut-Hole graph on the "3 View Report" page, there is a blue line that says "Click here for a more detailed explanation of these costs." When you click there, the calculator lists month-by-month medication costs for the entire year. If you want to add up the total annual costs, you’ll need to do that by hand. Print out the page by clicking on the button that says "Print Page With Chart." That way you'll get the graph included in the printout.
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