While it appears Americans’ spending on prescription drugs fell last year for the first time in nearly six decades, no one on Medicare ought to take that as a signal not to invest in a Medicare Part D prescription drug plan (PDP).
Part of the reason for the estimated 3.5 percent dip in drug costs nationally in 2012 can be attributed to recent improvements in Part D coverage.
Under the Affordable Care Act, drug companies are required to offer discounts on covered brand-name and generic drugs during the donut hole phase of Medicare Part D coverage. This results in major savings to people enrolled in PDPs, who Medicare.gov reports now pay only 47.5 percent of the cost of covered brand-name drugs and 79 percent of the cost of generic drugs on average during the donut hole phase, which is scheduled to be phased out entirely by 2020.
CBS News suggests another reason prescription drug expenditures decreased last year is that some consumers, strapped for cash, simply cut back on health services.
The idea of consumers not getting the medications they need because of budgetary considerations makes it more advisable than ever for Medicare recipients to be enrolled in Part D drug plans. Especially now that the donut hole is shrinking, Part D plans are an excellent tool for ensuring you get the prescription drugs you need at an affordable cost.
When and How to Sign Up for a Prescription Drug Plan
During the Oct. 15-Dec. 7 Medicare Open Enrollment Period (OEP):
During OEP, you can enroll in a Medicare Part D prescription drug plan for the first time. If you are already enrolled in a prescription drug plan, you can switch to another prescription drug plan.
If you drop Medicare Advantage during OEP in order to enroll in a Medicare supplement plan, you are well advised to enroll in a PDP, as the combination of a good Medigap plan and Part D coverage is hard to beat.
You may choose during OEP to enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan with prescription drug coverage (MA-PD). You can choose to disenroll from a Medicare Advantage plan that does not cover drugs in order to switch to an MA-PD, or you may choose an MA-PD as your first Medicare Advantage plan.
Note that if you are currently enrolled in an MA-PD and sign up for a stand-alone Part D drug plan, you will automatically be disenrolled from your MA-PD. This would open up the opportunity to purchase a Medicare supplement plan.
The effective date of any changes involving prescription drug coverage during this year’s Oct. 15-Dec. 7 Open Enrollment is Jan. 1, 2014.
During the upcoming Jan. 1-Feb. 14 Medicare Advantage Disenrollment Period:
Changes you can make to your Medicare coverage are more limited during the annual Jan.1-Feb. 14 Disenrollment Period for Medicare Advantage than during Medicare Open Enrollment.
During Open Enrollment, you can purchase a Medicare Part D prescription drug plan regardless of your current Medicare coverage—though it’s important to remember that, if you are enrolled in an MA-PD, joining a stand-alone PDP will disenroll you from your MA-PD.
During the Medicare Advantage Disenrollment Period, you can enroll in a PDP only if you disenroll from a Medicare Advantage plan and return to Original Medicare.
If you decide to join a Medicare supplement plan after disenrolling from Medicare Advantage, remember that, while they provide excellent, comprehensive coverage, Medicare supplement plans do not cover prescription drugs. For drug coverage to go with Medicare supplement insurance, you will need to enroll in a prescription drug plan.
You can also enroll in a prescription drug plan during any other Medicare enrollment period you qualify for, including your initial enrollment period, the General Enrollment Period, or a Special Enrollment Period.
If you do not enroll in a prescription drug plan when you are first eligible, but decide to enroll in a Part D plan after your initial enrollment period is over, you may be liable for the Medicare Part D late enrollment penalty. The penalty should not apply, however, if you have other creditable prescription drug coverage before enrolling in a PDP.
Although Medicare prescription drug plans are run by private companies, you can get further information about Part D plans and enrollment through Medicare.gov. To get the best possible rates and coverage available in your area, you should contact a MedicareMall Medicare plans representative—and you should not delay doing so if your current Medicare coverage does not include prescription drugs. Remember, Part D enrollment opportunities are limited.
For many people, the Oct. 15-Dec. 7 Medicare Open Enrollment Period represents the only opportunity until next year’s OEP to sign up for prescription drug coverage. Let a MedicareMall enrollment specialist shop the market on your behalf and help you sign up for the Medicare Part D prescription drug plan designed to offer you the best coverage and savings in the new year.
If you’ve already signed up for drug coverage during this year’s OEP, tell us about your experience!
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