Friday, December 08, 2006



Like it or not, if you are on the stand alone Medicare drug plan, the odds are that you should change your provider for next year. Open enrollment ends December 31. Use the government web site to compare your current plan with the competitors. Just because your plan was among the cheapest for 2006 doesn’t mean it is going to be close to cheapest for 2007. It sure looks like some of the cheapest plans are playing catch-up, relying on your inertia to keep you with them as they raise the price.

Here are some tips.

1.Don’t trust the reenrollment material your present carrier sent you. The “plan improvements” may be a slightly lower premium and a lower deductible, and a doubled co-pay. See those smiling people on the brochure? They are insurance company stockholders.

2. Don’t overemphasize the deductible. If you are going to reach the donut hole, the amount of the deductible is irrelevant. It is pay me now or pay me later. The major item is almost always the co-pay, not the deductible or the premium. And of course, only the total annual cost shown on the government web site matters.

3. Don’t enter all your drugs on the web site, just the expensive ones. Remember the counter-intuitive fact that the amount you pay, the co-pay, counts toward the maximum annual coverage. The generics that you can get at Wal-Mart or Target for $4 should not be purchased on your insurance, so they shouldn’t enter into your decision making on the web site.

4. Whether or not you are switching plans, if you are not in the donut hole refill all the prescriptions you can before year end. It is almost certain to cost more next year, and there is always the chance that a change in your prescriptions, or their cost, will subject you to the donut hole next year. December counts against this year, January the next year. If the computer rejects you as too early, call them to find out when you can refill. It may be before December 31. Better yet, sometimes they will fill it early and just send you a nasty letter.

5. If you are uncertain about something, email me. I only know my own little corner of this, but I can poke around the internet. Google seems to have an answer for everything. And I have a good friend who is a pharmacist. Warning- while there is no charge, you will probably be pestered for a bio.

Think of this process as a fun thing, like using coupons.

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