| No. If you like your current Part D drug plan, you can keep it without doing anything additional. You don’t have to reenroll or inform the plan that you’re staying.
But reviewing your present plan during Medicare’s annual open enrollment period Oct. 15 to Dec. 7 is always a good idea. All Part D plans can change their costs and coverage every calendar year, and you may need to take different medications from year to year, too.
The plan that works best for you now won’t necessarily be your best deal starting Jan. 1 of next year. So it’s important to consider your options every year.
How to figure out what will change next year
The first step: Carefully read a letter you’ll receive from your plan in September, called the annual notice of change. Medicare requires all plans to send this notice to enrollees every year informing them of any changes the plan will make for the next year. That includes four areas:
- Costs, meaning premiums, deductibles, copays
- Benefits, which drugs are covered
- Service area, if a plan has changed its geographical reach, and
- Pharmacies in the plan’s network
If you don’t receive this annual notice of change, ask your plan for the information.
The second step: Pay special attention to whether the medications you’re taking now or expect to take in the new year will still be covered and at what cost to you. Don’t take this step for granted even if the prescriptions you’re taking are generic.
The details of this letter will tell you about changes in the new year to your Part D plan’s formulary, its list of covered drugs, and whether those drugs are moving to a different tier, which are drugs grouped together based on the price you’ll pay. Insurers often charge lower copayments for preferred generic and preferred brand-name drugs than they do for medications not on their preferred lists.
Each private insurer that offers Part D plans negotiates with pharmaceutical companies on the prices they will have to pay. The insurers update the medicines in their formulary tiers in the annual notice of change letter.
The third step: Reviewing your annual notice of change gives you a basis to compare your current plan with others offered in your area. You may be particularly interested in looking into other plans during open enrollment if some of your favorite features of your current plan will be changing.
How to compare Part D plans during open enrollment
Even if your plan isn’t making big changes, comparing all your options during open enrollment is a good idea. In addition to the changes in your needs, other plans may enter your area or change the costs and coverage that you saw when you first compared plans.