Medicare Part D 2013 – Using MedicareDrugPlans.com to Help You Find the Right Plan

Open enrollment for Medicare Part D (Drug Plans) began this week. If you are eligible for Medicare Part D, and want to sign up for a plan or change your current plan, you should be sure to find the plan that works best for you.

Be sure to check out MedicareDrugPlans.com to compare and contrast plans; and don’t worry – plan ratings are completely objective, as we are not affiliated with any plan. In fact, the ratings are provided by people who actually use the plans, based on criteria like deductible, monthly premium, drug coverage, and customer service. Perhaps even more helpful than the ratings are the written reviews where Medicare Part D enrollees explain their experiences with plans, often expressing frustration with formularies that change mid-year, problems at the pharmacy using the plans, or copay issues. If you want to recommend (or steer people away from) a plan, make sure to leave a rating and review.

Once you’ve chosen a plan based on ratings and reviews, head to the government’s site, Medicare.gov to make sure the plan covers your medications, compare final costs and sign up for it. The average premium nationally is $53.55, which is down over a dollar than last year. The maximum drug deductible is $325, up $5 from last year

There are changes for enrollees who enter the coverage gap (“donut hole”) this year. While some plans do offer gap coverage for generics and brand name medication, most do not. However, once you enter the donut hole, you get a 50% discount on covered brand-name drugs, though the drug’s whole value will go towards closing the gap.

As open enrollment begins, Medicare enrollees interested in a drug plan are urged to research carefully. Whatever plan you choose will go into effect starting January 1st, 2013 and last for one full year – so get it right! Visit MedicareDrugPlans.com now!


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PhRMA Criticizes Obama’s New Budget For Requiring More Rebates on Prescription Drugs

“President Obama just released next year’s budget proposal and it has already sparked fierce criticism from the pharmaceutical industry. That’s because the plan would require Big Pharma to give an additional $156 billion in drug rebates over the next decade.” 
 
This news comes from RxRight.org’s latest blog post, entitled Big Pharma balks at President’s proposed budget. Not surprisingly, as articulated by its president, John Castellani, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America is against the rebates and other reforms found in Obama’s budget. One point championed by Mr. Castellani as a reason to criticize President Obama is that the “Medicare Part D is working well for seniors.” While Part D has certainly helped many seniors afford needed medication, the RxRights post, and empirical data, show that millions of seniors still struggle to afford necessary, and sometimes life-saving, prescription drugs because of costs – despite Medicare Part D drugs plans. 
 
In fact, the failure of Medicare Part D is one reason that reputable international online pharmacies remain a lifeline for Medicare enrollees. It appears if Obama’s budget is approved, without changes to his prescription drug rebate requests, then more Americans will forgo the international option in favor of domestic pharmacies. 
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American Medical News reported last week, “Pharmacists have called on the agency overseeing the Medicare program to allow patients to switch their prescription drug plans outside of the normal open enrollment season after beneficiaries say they were misled by insurers.” This would mean a second chance for patients who feel they were not given all the details of the plan they are now stuck with for a year.

A large proportion of ratings and reviews found on our site – MedicareDrugPlans.com – certainly demonstrate the frustration of Medicare enrollees who are not happy with their plans. We would support such a “second chance” to find a better plan. (more…)

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Part D Open Enrollment Ends Today

Today is the last day for the Medicare Part D open enrollment period. For most Medicare enrollees, those who do not have a plan by midnight tonight will face a penalty charge, which will be added to future Part D monthly premium payments.

The Medicare drug plans have certainly frustrated many seniors, who’s experiences can be found in the ratings and reviews on www.MedicareDrugPlans.com. Some of the most frequent problems with plans communicated by seniors are drugs being dropped by plan formularies mid-year; information on drug coverage was not initially made clear; co-pays were higher than expected; and customer service was often inadequate.

On the other hand, some seniors were completely satisfied with their plans. The bottom line is that you need to pick a plan now or you will pay more later.

Sharing her optimism for Medicare Part D benefits, and the discounts provided under the Affordable Healthcare Act, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius commented on Medicare.gov’s official blog: “Through the end of October, 2.65 million people with Medicare have received discounts on brand name drugs in the donut hole. These discounts have saved seniors and people with disabilities a total of $1.5 billion on prescriptions – averaging about $569 per person.”

If you’ve yet to choose your plan, you can easily compare reviews on MedicareDrugPlans.com before making the final decision. If you want to share your experiences with others then please rate your plan.

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Medicare Part D Drug Plans – Find the Best Plan For You

If you are eligible for Medicare Part D (Drug Plans), you should be aware that 1) open enrollment starts tomorrow, October 15th and 2) you can now research Medicare Part D plans on our site MedicareDrugPlans.com. On the site you find out which plans are rated best (or worst) by people enrolled in them. You’ll also get the 2011 pricing information for every plan in each U.S. state and territory. The information is completely objective – we are not affiliated with any plan.

If you are already enrolled in a Part D plan, MedicareDrugPlans.com allows you to rate and review your current plan, so others can learn from you.

To actually sign up for a plan, we recommend using the government’s website, Medicare.gov – at which you can best determine which plan covers all the prescription drugs you take. Comparing costs and features can be crucial to your health and your finances. Annual deductible, monthly premium and drug coverage (especially in the “doughnut hole”) are important to consider when choosing or changing your prescription plan.

This year the average premium nationally is $55, actual $1 lower than last year! The standard deductible, on the other hand, increased from $310 to $320. Less than ten plans offer coverage through the doughnut hole. However, under the new health care law, brand name drugs are now 50% off through this coverage gap period.

As open enrollment begins, Medicare enrollees interested in a drug plan are urged to research carefully. Whatever plan you choose will go into effect starting January 1st, 2011 and last for one full year – so get it right! Go to www.MedicareDrugPlans.com now.

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An article published last week in Reuters suggests that Medicare Part D drug plans may be dropping premium prices – an effect of the healthcare reform law which could greatly benefit seniors if they shop around. Reevaluating your Medicare drug plan yearly during the open enrollment period is always a good idea, but this year plan selection could make a big difference.

Although we reported in August that plan premiums will not raise in 2012, Avalere Health, a health policy consulting firm, finds that while 10 of the top Part D plans will lower prices, six plans will raise premiums. However, the good news is that in the larger picture Avalere “projects that average premiums for both prescription drug and Advantage plans will fall 4 percent for 2012.” Because of the 2010 heath reform law, Dan Mendelson, Avalere Health’s CEO, is calling this a “year of change.” He tells Reuters, “It’s a year where patients really need to shop.”

MedicareDrugPlans.com provides ratings and reviews – along with basic plan information such as deductibles and premiums– for consumers to access during their research period. Ratings and comments help Medicare enrollees understand the pros and cons of a plan, and user comments and forum posts give details on what other Americans experienced with their plans.

Open enrollment will be from October 15th – December 7th this year, a change from previous years meant to give Medicare enough time to process all changes and new enrollees, and for consumers to manage their health needs before the busy holiday season.

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In Medicare “Doughnut Hole” 3.4 Million Stop Taking Their Medication

New research shows that the Medicare drug plan “doughnut hole” seriously endangers not only the pocketbook, but also the health of our nation’s seniors and other Medicare enrollees. Two separate studies released this month show that patients who reach the coverage gap are more likely to stop taking their medication than they are to switch to a cheaper drug: the Public Library of Science published Changes in Drug Utilization During a Gap in Insurance Coverage: An Examination of the Medicare Part D Coverage Gap, and the Kaiser Family Foundation Program on Medicare Policy published Understanding the Effects of the Medicare Part D Coverage Gap in 2008 and 2009.

The putative reason for the coverage gap is that the threshold will teach consumers to be aware of drug costs. Jennifer Polinski, ScD, MPH, the author of PLoS study says, “there is an expectation that people will seek less expensive drug options when they enter the donut hole.” However, these studies reveal that this is clearly not the case. Research from 2006 and 2007 shows that beneficiaries were 40% less likely to switch a drug if they did not receive financial assistance, as opposed to those beneficiaries who did. Likewise, the Kaiser study reveals that about 3.4 million, or 12%, of Part D enrollees who reached the gap in 2008 and 2009 discontinued their medication. (more…)

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New Drug Savings Options Needed as 43,000 Illinois Residents Lose Benefits

An estimated 43,000 residents of Illinois will find it more difficult, if not impossible, to afford their prescription medication due to heavy budget cuts, according to the Chicago Tribune. Specifically, funding for the Illinois Cares Rx program, which  subsidizes the cost of medicine and payments associated with Medicare drug benefits, will be cut in half, from $107.4 million to $53.7 million. Illinois Cares Rx includes people with a Medicare drug plan and others who have no drug benefits at all.

With the cuts in place beginning September 1st, 2011, the Illinois Cares Rx program will only be available to those residents earning 200 percent or less of the federal poverty level – or $21,780 annually, down from a higher threshold of 240%, or $27,610. Even the 173,500 remaining in the program will “face higher co-payments for prescriptions — in some cases, double the amount they were previously paying.(more…)

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Besides the obvious – access to cheap generic alternatives for once exorbitantly priced prescriptions – this year’s patent expirations on blockbuster brand-name drugs means even more good news for American consumers. A U.S. News and World Report article suggests the Patent Cliff as one of the reasons for the forecasted Medicare savings. Access to low-cost generics on popular drugs like Lipitor cuts spending significantly for plan sponsors, and U.S. officials have announced that enrollees paying for prescription drugs through Medicare Part D will not see an increase in premiums, in contrast with prior years. Rather, the yearly fees will decrease slightly – from an average of $30.76 in 2011 to $30.00 in 2012. All current plan premiums can be found on MedicareDrugPlans.com – Compare Costs and Features.

Moreover, plan enrollees are now receiving a 50% discount on brand name drugs purchased through the coverage gap. However, brand name drug prices continue to increase, which means the discount’s importance is less pronounced. (more…)

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In the State of the Union speech last night, President Obama highlighted prescription savings benefits in his otherwise brief coverage of new healthcare reform. As we’ve previously reported, and President Obama was clear to state, those prescription savings will go mostly to our nation’s seniors who are enrolled in Medicare. Beginning last September, many of America’s seniors received $250 rebate checks for prescription drug costs, a small step toward affordable healthcare. Better yet, starting this year, the coverage gap will narrow, with enrollees receiving a 50% discount on brand name drugs, and by 2020, a 75% discount. While the “doughnut hole” will not fully be closed, the savings will mean that far fewer Medicare enrollees will face exorbitant brand name drug prices out of pocket. (more…)

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