Medicare Part DCategory:
100’s of Supplements to Pick From
Insurance companies offer hundreds of different Medicare supplements, Medicare Advantage plans, and Medicare Part D prescription drug plans. Picking Medicare plan means choosing between Medicare supplements and a Part D prescription drug plan OR Medicare Advantage/Part C. Next picking Medicare plan means choosing the plan type. Medigap plans range from plan A through the alphabet to plan N, which doesn’t include a Part D drug plan. The drug plans can be a little simpler because you can use the Medicare tool to narrow down the selection. The Medicare calculator bases the plan selection upon the prescriptions you enter into the system. The calculator picks the Medicare Part D plan that will cost the least in total costs for you. On the other side, Medicare Advantage plans consist of a wide variety of co-pays, co-insurance, deductibles, and maximum out-of-pocket costs and amounts that may or may not include a Part D plan.
Foreign Language of Medicare
Medicare itself is like a foreign language of Part A, Part B, and Part D with rules around enrollment that includes penalties when you do not comply. The Medicare.gov website is meant to be helpful, but the shear amount of information, jargon, legalese makes it a barrier to entry rather than a door. Even the Medicare handbook is hundreds of pages. Its size makes the evaluation of information almost impossible.
The Pain of Picking Medicare Plan
As a consequence, picking a Medicare plan is a frustrating and painful process for people. That is why I take people through a 3-step process. 1.) There is a brief, foundational explanation of Medicare and how it works. 2.) Look at ALL of the plans, but in an organized and ordered fashion. The first step helps you evaluate the plans. I share the story behind each company from my fifteen years of insurance experience because each company has a history in the market. 3.) I find out about you. Everyone is unique. Some people are risk takers. Others are not. Some have health concerns that are foremost of mind. Others do not have any.
The logic of the process enables people to narrow down choices and make the best one for them. I ask questions as we go along. Test and probe. Explain aspects of the plans as we go through each. Constantly test for understanding. So the process of picking a Medicare plan becomes clearer as we move through it. I generally meet with people twice. The first time is usually months before they can do anything. There is no pressure to make a decision or ‘buy right now.’ Clients have time to think, collect more information, verify what they’ve learned, talk with confidants. The next time we get together is to review with updated information. That is the time for picking a Medicare plan. By then you are comfortable and confident with your decision because your decision is well informed. It is logical. The decision is made over time without pressure. You know what you are doing when you pick your Medicare plan.
If you would like to go through this process, there is not cost or obligation. Call 402-614-3389 to find out more.
Medicare usually makes some changes every year. Medicare changes Part D without exception. Medicare and the insurance companies make adjustments based upon drug costs and contracts with pharmaceutical companies. Medicare is also gradually eliminating the dreaded gap in Part D coverage, better known as the “Donut Hole.”
Medicare Changes Part D Deductible
The change that gets the most recognition this year is the Medicare Part D changes deductible. Medicare changes Part D deductible from $350 in 2016 to $400 in 2017. That is a 14% increase to the deductible alone, which is a constant reminder to review your Medicare Part D plan each year with your agent.
Part D Shell Game
A $400 deductible is sizeable. Most of the Part D plans have the deductible, but some do not. The way those plans are able to eliminate the deductible is by spreading the deductible out through the various co-pays on your medications. The other way is to apply the deductible only to higher Tier, more expensive drugs, e.g., Tier 3-5 medication. The Part D plans are a bit of a shell game shifting costs from this drug to another. It is important to not be distracted by the various co-pays. Medicare.gov has a wonderful medication calculator that will compared all of the Part D plans in your area side-by-side. You want to use that tool and focus on the total number that you will spend. Too often, Medicare beneficiaries will focus on one co-pay or an initial deductible. The bottom line is the total amount coming out of your pocket.
Medicare.gov Medication Calculator
That being said, we all have limited budgets. A big deductible may be too big for your wallet. It may make sense to use a Part D plan without a deductible to even out your costs over the year. If you are going on a Part D plan more than half way through the year because you just turned 65, it may make sense to pick a plan with no deductible. Why pay the big deductible and turn around and pay it again in January? That is why it is important that your agent go through your list of medications, talk about the costs, and figure out the best plan for you. An experienced agent should be able to effectively use the Medicare prescription drug calculator to show you how your medication costs will play out in the coming year. Also remember to check whether you qualify for the EXTRA HELP Program.