En español | Your goal in choosing a Part D plan is to pick a plan that covers all of your drugs at the least out-of-pocket cost, provides good service, and meets your own needs and preferences. You can do this in three ways:
- Use the online plan finder program on Medicare’s website. Go to https://www.medicare.gov/find-a-plan/questions/home.aspx and enter your zip code. If you enter the name of each prescription drug you take, plus its dosage and how often you take it, the plan finder automatically does the math to identify the plan in your area that covers your drugs at the lowest cost. On this site you can see the details of how much your drugs would cost under each plan, monthly and throughout the year. You can also easily see how Medicare has rated each plan for good service (on a scale of one to five stars) or posted alerts that flag low-performing plans. You can find out which plans are available nationally. You can see which plans put restrictions on any of your drugs (which would mean having to ask special permission for the plan to cover them) and which plans offer “preferred” pharmacies that would charge lower copays. And much, much more.
- Call Medicare’s help line. If you call Medicare at 800-633-4227 (available 24/7), you can ask a customer service representative to perform the same search for you. Be sure to make a list of the drugs you take, plus their dosage and how often you take them, so that the rep can feed them into the online plan finder. You can ask for the results to be mailed to you.
- Contact your state health insurance assistance program (SHIP). This provides personal help from trained counselors on all Medicare and Medicaid issues, free of charge. A counselor can use the plan finder to review your options and identify the plan that suits you best. To find the main toll-free number of your SHIP (which goes by different names in some states), go to www.shiptacenter.org and select your state.
This may seem a lot of work, but it’s important to compare drug plans carefully if you want to find the one that’s best for you. For example, plans can and do charge widely different copays — a variation that in some cases has exceeded $100, $300 or even $500 for a 30-day supply of the same drug, analyses have shown. Ideally, you need to do this comparison every year during open enrollment (Oct. 15 to Dec. 7) because plans can change their costs and formularies (the lists of drugs they cover) every calendar year.
To understand how Part D works, see AARP’s consumer guide to the program at http://www.aarp.org/health/medicare-insurance/medicare_partD_guide/.