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Ask Ms. Medicare

What to Do if Your Current Medicare Plan Won't Exist Next Year

Don't worry, you still have choices

Part D prescription drug plans

Whatever state you live in, you'll still have plenty of choices in 2012 among these private "stand-alone" plans, which provide prescription drug coverage to people enrolled in traditional Medicare. The options range from 25 plans in Hawaii and Alaska to 36 in Pennsylvania and West Virginia. But some plans will be unavailable next year.

What you can do: Compare plans that are available in your state using the online drug plan finder on the Medicare website. If you enter your ZIP code and the names of the prescription drugs you take, plus their dosages and how often you take them, the plan finder automatically does the math to find the plan that covers all your drugs at the lowest out-of-pocket cost. Or call the Medicare help-line at 1-800-633-4227 for the same information.

Even if your current plan will still be available next year, making this comparison is still very worthwhile. Every year, most Part D plans change their premiums, deductibles and copayments. In 2012, premiums will slightly fall on average nationwide, but some plans will charge substantially lower premiums and others much higher ones than this year. You can compare plans and, if you want, switch to another during open enrollment, between October 15 and December 7. Coverage in the new plan starts Jan. 1.

Can you lose your drug coverage if you take no action?  It depends on the circumstances:  

•    You will not lose coverage if your current Part D plan is still offered for 2012. Unless you actively switch to another plan, your current coverage will automatically continue next year in the plan you have now.

•    You will not lose coverage if your current plan is disappearing but the insurance company that provides it offers another plan.  You will be automatically switched to this other plan for 2012, unless you take steps to enroll in different plan from another insurer.

•    You will lose coverage if the insurance company that provides your current plan withdraws from the Medicare Part D program in your area for 2012 and you do not enroll in another plan from a different insurer for next year.  In this case, if you take no action, you will not be able to join another plan until open enrollment at the end of 2012. You will also receive a late penalty for the 12 months you were without drug coverage, in the form of a surcharge permanently added to your Part D premiums.

Next: What to do if you lose medigap coverage. >>

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