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Medicare Open Enrollment: Oct. 15 - Dec. 7

What You Need to Know About Medicare Plans in 2012

Save money by taking the time to comparison shop

Other ways to save money on drugs in 2012:

  • Savings in the Part D doughnut hole: The manufacturers' discount on brand-name drugs in the coverage gap known as the doughnut hole continues to be 50 percent in 2012, but the government discount for generic drugs goes up from 7 to 14 percent. (Under the new health care law, these discounts are due to increase until 2020 when nobody will pay more than 25 percent for any drugs in the gap.) Some plans also offer additional coverage in the gap.
  • More generics will become available: Cheaper generic copies of some expensive, blockbuster drugs such as Lipitor, Plavix and Zyprexa will come on the market in 2012. Part D plans typically charge far lower copays for generic drugs. The original brand-name drugs, however, typically retain their high prices when they lose patent protection and face generic competition.
  • Low-cost drug coverage: About 2 million people who are eligible for subsidized coverage under Part D's Extra Help program are not taking advantage of its savings, according to Medicare estimates. "The eligibility requirements are more flexible than they were a couple of years ago," says Medicare administrator Don Berwick. "If you were turned down in the past due to income or resource levels, you should reapply." To apply, call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 or apply online.

Also of interest: 8 Medicare cuts on the table. >>

Patricia Barry is a senior editor at the AARP Bulletin.

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