2011 Medicare Open Enrollment Starts Today… Now What?

Open Enrollment is the period between November 15th and December 31st each year when Medicare enrollees can sign up for Part D prescription drug coverage, or if they are already enrolled, cancel their current plan, or switch to a different plan. Open enrollment is the time to research, rate and compare the plan options so that you pick the plan that’s best for you. A month and a half means you don’t have to and should not rush to a decision…

The enrollment period can be confusing enough for Medicare members, and this year’s changes that come with the health reform may make sign-up decisions even more complicated. We therefore recommend MedicareDrugPlans.com as a very helpful site that gives you access to honest plan reviews from your peers.

On MedicareDrugPlans.com you can sort plan options by name, company, location, overall rating or individual rating (i.e.: information received from plan, customer service, choice of drugs, cost of plan, and ease of use). There are plan profiles for all plan options offered in 2011 and  forums about the drug plans,  and related Medicare issues, on which you can ask questions or add your input. This means you can find important information about the plans and what others have experienced using them. You may discover which plans covered all of a member’s drugs without problems or which have great or not-so-great customer service – all from a community of consumers just like you.

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As we previously reported, nearly 3 million seniors will be forced to change their Medicare drug plan this year due to the new health reform law. Now, in addition to the millions who have to, many may voluntarily change plans if their premiums go up, which is likely. A new report from Avalere Health, a private research firm, shows that among the top Medicare plans, premiums are expected raise an average of 10%.

In general, Medicare officials say the average premium should only raise 1%, but on the high end it could be up to 43%! Enrollees of the First Health Part D Premier Plus plan offered by Coventry Health Care will see monthly payments rise from $64 to $91 – that’s over $300 for the year. Another startling change will be for members of the AARP MedicareRX Saver plan, the second most popular among seniors. These enrollees will be switched to the largest plan, AARP MedicareRX Preferred, and will see, on average, a 15% raise in premiums. (more…)

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Health Care Reform and Relief Arrive Today

Our health care focus at PharmacyChecker.com is, of course, prescription drug safety and savings. But today we want to simply recognize and report on the first real benefits to come from the now six-month-old health care law. Health insurance companies must make some seriously consumer-friendly changes. As of now, insurers:

-  Must not exclude children from coverage because of pre-existing health conditions.  The White House has noted that this may explain coverage to 72,000 children who were previously insured.

- Must offer adult children under the age of 26 coverage under their parent’s health plans.

- Will be prohibited from dropping customers due to technical mistakes on their applications. (more…)

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DRUG PRICE S.O.S – March 2010 Update – Even the Insured Are Not Taking Their Medication

Last month we reported on the national crisis of high prescription drug prices, showing that at the beginning of the recession 40% of Americans were struggling to afford their prescription drug prices (Harvard School of Public Health). Sadly, new data further highlights this national emergency and shows that the problem is getting worse. Focusing on Americans with insurance, a report by Wolter Kluwer Pharma Solutions found that 14.4% of new prescriptions were not filled in 2009, an increase of 5.5% over 2008. The study attributed the increase to rising co-payments. In fact, 24% more prescriptions were simply abandoned in 2009 than 2008. Prescription abandonment is when a patient does not pick up his or her prescription at the pharmacy. The problem is more acute with brand name drugs than generics.

To stop the increasing tide of Americans skipping their medications due to cost, it is more urgent than ever that increase access to safe and affordable medication.  In the short term, healthcare reform will provide limited drug price relief but will not significantly help struggling Americans any time soon.  However, low-cost online pharmacies and personal drug importation can play an important role in making sure Americans are taking the medicines they need right now. Canadian and other international online pharmacies, for example, offer drug savings of about 70% on brand name drugs. Legalizing personal drug importation and educating consumers about how to safely order prescription drugs from such pharmacies is the right prescription.

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