For Medicare beneficiaries enrolled in a Part D drug plan, annual enrollment time is upon us. Through the end of the year, beneficiaries can review plans and enroll in one that provides the best coverage for their drugs. Sometimes change is difficult and we would like to remain with the coverage we had last year. However, it is important to know that in almost every case, a change to a new program can be a cost savings.
According to Kaiser Health News, Part D premiums are going up an average of 10 percent, to $40.72 monthly. But plans may differ significantly from that average, depending on the plan's deductibles, coinsurance and doughnut hole coverage.
There are some new plan options in 2011 with premiums as low as $14.80 a month. An affordable premium is important, but don't forget to consider other factors in choosing a plan. Even if the monthly premium is low, costs can climb depending on the medications you take. Kaiser Health News says some plans can limit how much of a drug can be prescribed over a certain period of time, and others require health care providers to give an explanation of why the patient needs a certain drug.
In 2011, North Dakota's Medicare beneficiaries can choose from 33 stand-alone prescription drug plans. Nationwide, fewer Medicare Part D plans are being offered than in any year since the Medicare drug benefit was implemented in 2006, according to Kaiser Health News.
Some good news for beneficiaries in 2011 is that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, often referred to as the health care reform law, will continue to close the doughnut hole. The doughnut hole is the gap in coverage that occurs after you have spent a certain amount of money ($2,840 in 2011) for covered drugs. The beneficiary pays all drug costs until he or she reaches the out-of-pocket limit ($6,448 in 2011). The new law provides seniors with a discount in the doughnut hole-50 percent off brand name drugs and seven percent off generics.
Medicare beneficiaries, you have until Dec. 31, 2010 to switch or enroll in a Part D plan for 2011. Now is the time to evaluate your options and make sure you are choosing the plan that best fits your needs.
If you were not able to attend an annual enrollment event in your area, you can still access one of these resources to compare the plan you have now with the 2011 plan options:
1. Contact Medicare at 1-800-Medicare.
2. Call 211 before Dec. 15 from anywhere in North Dakota to begin the plan comparison process.
3. Contact the North Dakota Insurance Department at 1-888-575-6611.
David Zimmerman is consumer assistance division director at the North Dakota Insurance Department.