With the annual Medicare Open Enrollment Period impacting more than 24 million beneficiaries in Medicare Presription Drug Plans, a Medicare expert identifies the Plan Finder, a web-based tool that compares the cost of Medicare Prescription Drug Plans, as the the best way for struggling seniors to evaluate whether or not to switch plans.
(San Francisco, CA) Medicare Open Enrollment, October 15th to December 7th, is generally the only time each year that Medicare beneficiaries can change their Prescription Drug Plans for the following calendar year. Yet research from the Kaiser Famiy Foundation shows that only a small share of Medicare beneficiaries, 10% - 13% on average, voluntarily switch plans during Open enrollment. Little is known about the reasons why people switch, but the data implies that people switch to lower premiums.
"With drug plans the primary selection criteria should be overall total cost, not the cost of premiums," says Koch, a Medicare aging network partner with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid. "What people don't understand is just how differently plans categorize and price drugs. Why spend more for the same set of drugs?"
Koch emphasizes that an annual drug plan review is needed. "Even if a beneficiary is satisfied wit their current plan, the plan itself is likely to be changing. And for the senior, their drugs may have changed or will be changing too," says Koch.
"Reviewing plans can be very difficult for seniors yet their health and financial security might depend upon it," says Pat Vitucci, a San Francisco Bay Area independent finacial advisor. Koch spoke about this year's Medicare Open Enrollment on Pat Vitucci's weekly radio program, "Your Financila Life," which airs on KDOW 1220AM San Francisco and KSRO 1350AM Santa Rosa.
According to Koch,the most underutilized solution for comparing drug plans is the Plan Finder at https://www.Medicare.gov.find-a-plan. It allows or an easy comparion of all drugs plans available to a beneficiary. By entering zip code, drug specifics, pharmacy choices, and answering a few questions, the Plan Finder does all the work. It provides an apples-to-apples comparison of total estimated annual cost (premiums plus the cost of drugs) for each plan and lists the plans from least expensive to most expensive plan.
"You would be amazed fat the range of total cost differences between drug plans for the same set of drugs," say Koch. Koch can speka to these variances as she assists her clients with their annual drug plan reviews and selections. For example, for 2017 she willbe recommending a plan that will save one of her clients $7,000 in comparison to the least cost plan she recommended for 2016. In prior year, the cost savings ranged from $2,000 to $11,000 per year. And these numbers are for for three drugs. "As higher cost specialty drugs are bieng prescribed, it becomes even more important to do annual drug plan reviews and switch plans based on over total cost," says Koch
Koch provides another tip: "Many seniors need help during Medicare Open Enrollment. If you are caring for an aging parent, this is an opportunity to not only help your parents but to educate yourself to their medical conditions and their health insurance coverage and costs."
ABOUT ESTHER KOCH AND ENCORE MANAGMENT
Esther Koch, the Founder of Encore Managment, is a Gerontologist and Aging Network Partner with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid and the Administration on Aging, and was a Delegate to the White House Conference on Aging. In addition, she has a professional business background as a Stanford MBA, PricewaterhouseCoopers CPA, and CFO.
Esther is a frequent speaker on Medicare, eldercare, and oter retirement and aging-related tpics. Visit her Vimeo channel athttps://Vimeo/EstherKoch
Encore Management assists clients with their initial Medicare elections, subsequent annual Medicare Prescription Drug reviews and selections, and provides other aging advisory services. For additioinal information visit http://www.ENCOREmgmt.com