New Tools Help Seniors Pick Drug Plans

Open enrollment for Medicare prescription drug plans begins today, and new tools are available to help navigate the complicated choices.It’s that time of year again when seniors have to sift through dozens of Medicare prescription drug plans and find one that meets their needs. Coloradans have 55 plans to choose from, and finding one that is cost effective and that covers the right drugs can be challenging. To cut down on the confusion, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid services have launched new online tools to help narrow down the options. The Medicare Prescription Drug Plan Finder allows users to search for plans based on factors such as cost, customer service, drugs covered and participating pharmacies. Users can also enter the drugs the Medicare beneficiary already takes into the Formulary Finder, which will point to the plans that offer the best coverage for those medications.

Medicare.gov also has information about premium subsidies for low-income enrollees. Premiums for the drug plans in Colorado range from $15.60 to $99.50, and more than 93,000 beneficiaries in the state qualify for subsidies.

Drug benefit enrollees are encouraged to research plans even if they’ve been happy with the ones they are on. Only 10 percent of enrollees switched plans from 2006 to 2007, with many not realizing the types of drugs covered by a plan can change from one year to the next and premiums often increase. Three-quarters of Medicare drug plan enrollees with face higher premiums if they don’t switch plans, according to a recent report from Kaiser Family Foundation.

Medicare drug benefit enrollment resources:

Seniors can meet with community program counselors across the state for one-on-one help. Call 1-888-696-7213 to find a regional program.

Interactive drug plan finder tools are available on the Medicare.gov Web site.

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Kerri Rebresh

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