The importance of Medicare plan comparisons during Open Enrollment are published everywhere you look, but sometimes I think that those warnings go unheeded because folks just do not understand how drastically coverage by the same plan can change year to year.
I saw up close and personal how beneficial the SHIP program is and the importance of Open Enrollment this week. A gentleman we will call Mr. A came to a State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) Open Enrollment event in the South Central Alabama Development Commission region. He drove 20 miles to check out his coverage because he was unsure of whether he needed to keep or change his Medicare Part D prescription drug plan (PDP) for 2017. He opted to do the safe thing and check it out. Thank goodness he did.
Mr. A’s prescription drug plan for 2016 had a zero premium and covered his 10 medications prescribed by his doctor. That all worked out well, and during 2016 Mr. A’s total out of pocket expenses related to his prescription drug plan totaled $542.00. This was a manageable arrangement for him.
When a comparison of plans was run Mr. A was shocked to learn that his 2016 prescription drug plan would have a premium of $26.80, a deductible of $400.00, and his 10 medications had been reconfigured on the plan formulary resulting in 2 of his medications no longer being covered and 3 of his medications reclassified as Tier 3 medications, meaning that his copayments would be higher. In all, Mr. A would have had to pay $3276.00 in out of pocket expenses related to his prescription drug plan during 2017 if he made no changes in coverage.
The comparison provided Mr. A with several options, and he selected a plan that would result in $360.00 in total out of pocket expenses for 2017, saving him $2916.00 over what he would have had to pay if he had not had a comparison run.
While Medicare enrollees can run their own comparisons, they will need to use the online plan finder provided by Medicare. Comparisons are performed free and counseling provided through the SHIP program funded through the Alabama Aging and Disability Resource Centers. To learn more call 1-800-AGE-LINE.