Why you should shop your Part D coverage for next year - in one chart
Odds are good that you'll pay a higher premium if you stick with your current plan.
Medicare’s annual enrollment period runs through December 7th, and journalists like myself and Phil Moeller over atnever seem to forget to pester you to run a checkup on your Part D coverage. And, here’s just one more nudge:
Odds are pretty good you’ll pay more for prescription drug coverage if you stay with your current plan.
The Kaiser Family Foundation reports that 60% of enrollees will pay a higher premium next year for their current coverage. Among the 16 national plans, average monthly premiums will increase in 2023 for 12 plans, including four that will increase their premiums by more than $10:
Cigna Extra Rx (+$13, a 26% increase)
Elixir RxSecure (+$12, a 35% increase)
AARP MedicareRx Preferred (+$12, a 12% increase)
Humana Walmart Value Rx Plan (+$11, a 46% increase).
Here are the changes, depicted in a single chart:
Premiums are not the full story, as Kaiser notes:
“. . . many will also face higher deductibles and cost sharing for covered drugs. Most Part D PDP enrollees who remain in their current plan for 2023 will be in a plan with the standard (maximum) $505 deductible and will face much higher cost sharing for brands than for generic drugs, including as much as 50% coinsurance for non-preferred drugs. Some beneficiaries could see overall cost savings, including the monthly premium, deductible, and cost sharing, if they switched to a lower-premium plan, while for other beneficiaries, a higher-premium plan might better meet their needs at a lower overall total cost.”
Phil Moeller notes that Medicare Advantage enrollees face similar challenges. His post is worth reading.
The basics on how to navigate fall enrollment don’t change much from year to year.
This is the time of year when you can switch between Original Medicare and Advantage, or make changes to your current Part D or Advantage plan coverage to make sure you're getting the best deal financially--and the best match of healthcare providers and drug coverage.
Even if you like your current coverage, it can pay to take a careful look at your options during open enrollment. The design of your prescription drug plan coverage can change annually, and Advantage plans can make changes to their networks of healthcare providers at any time.
If you're enrolled only in original Medicare with a Medigap supplemental plan, there's no need to re-evaluate your Medigap coverage. But if you have original Medicare and a Part D drug plan, it definitely makes sense to review your drug plan annually to see what drugs will be covered and at what cost, and how they will be delivered.
If you're a do-it-yourselfer, the federal government's Medicare Plan Finder is the place to go. But with so many choices--and subtle, complex differences in prescription drug plans--getting some knowledgeable help makes good sense.
The best idea is to use your State Health Insurance Assistance Program, or SHIP. These are free counseling services staffed by knowledgeable volunteers who can help you identify best-match coverage from the entire range of available plans where you live. Find yours here.
What about insurance brokers? Many brokers know the prescription drug, Advantage, and Medigap plan markets very well. But it's important to understand that brokers earn a living through commissions, so they have a built-in bias to sell their own product lines. And that means you will not be selecting plans based on thorough analysis of all the possible coverage choices available to you, and that also means you may not wind up with a best-fit plan.
A review of online broker plan selection tools by The Commonwealth Fund found that, on average, each tool included just 43% of available Medicare Advantage plans and 65% of Part D plans. By contrast, SHIPs will survey the entire range of plans available where you live.
Once you've selected your plan, enroll directly through Medicare, either via the toll-free number or online. This is an important step, because it creates a confirmation record of the choices you make with Medicare that can be revisited if any subsequent errors are made in your enrollment.
Learn more about navigating enrollment season in this edition of the RR podcast, featuring Frederic Riccardi of the Medicare Rights Center.