Category Archives: Medicare

Medicare Open Enrollment

It’s that time again—October 15 – December 7—when you can make changes in your Medicare health plan (Parts A & B or C) and prescription drug plan (Part D) for 2017. If you’re happy with your current plan, you don’t need to do anything. However, if you want to switch between Original Medicare and Medicare Advantage, pick a different Medicare Advantage plan or change your Part D plan, you can only do so during the Open Enrollment Period.

2017 Medicare Changes

Premiums and Deductibles

The  Medicare Part B premium for new enrollees who have income of $85,000 or less is $121.80. For current enrollees the premium remains the same because there was no cost of living increase for 2016. The Part B deductible is $166 for 2017.

Coverage

Find coverage information at medicare.gov or in Medicare &You 2017, the official U.S. government Medicare handbook.

Medicare Advantage Provider Networks

Medicare Advantage Plan HMO and PPO networks change each year and sometimes during the year. If you want to keep particular doctors, make sure to check that they are still in your plan. There is a continuing trend to narrow networks, which means there is less provider choice.

Part D Pharmacies and Formularies

Which pharmacies are included in a Part D plan and which are preferred can change each year. Formularies typically change each year and sometimes during the year. Part D plans usually send out their next year’s information a month or more before Open Enrollment. Take the time to review these materials carefully for changes that effect you.

During the year, your plan may substitute one generic for another for treating the same condition. Be aware that all generics are not created equal. If a substitution occurs with a drug you take, contact the doctor who prescribed it as the new one may have different side effects than the original.

If you need an expensive drug that’s not in your formulary, visit pharmacychecker.com. This organization has a rigorous verification and certification process for finding and comparing prices of reputable, online licensed pharmacies. These foreign pharmacies, many in Canada, can legally provide a 3-month supply of branded drugs with your doctor’s prescription. The savings can be substantial. All large pharmaceutical companies have manufacturing plants in foreign locales that must meet the same FDA standards as U.S. plants. As overhead costs are much lower, the prices are also significantly lower. However, generic drugs are cheaper in the U.S. due to increased competition.