2008 Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Plans Offer Changes, Choices and the Challenges of No Complete Gap Coverage

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Medicare-PartD.com provides newly released information for Medicare Part D beneficiaries about 2008 Part D plans. Part D beneficiaries should prepare to reexamine their prescription drug coverage as many 2008 Part D plans are changing and no 2008 Part D prescription drug plan offers complete brand-name doughnut hole or gap coverage.

Medicare-PartD.com now offers Medicare Part D beneficiaries information on the changes in the newly released 2008 Part D prescription drug plans, including the long-awaited plan features and premiums. Medicare Part D prescription drug plans are changing again according to a summary of 2008 Part D plans released by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). 2008 will bring a larger selection of Part D prescription drug plans in most states, an increase in monthly Part D premiums, and no Part D plans offering complete coverage of brand-name drugs in the doughnut hole or gap.

2008 Changes: As in 2007, 17 insurance providers will offer 2008 prescription drug plans on a national basis with two new entrants (Sterling Insurance Group and Universal American Financial Corporation), while two companies will pull out of the national Part D plan market (Express Scripts, Inc. - SAMAscript and NMHC SYSTEMS, INC). In 2006, the first year of the Medicare Part D program, there were nine companies offering Part D plans across the nation. A state-by-state overview of features and premiums of these nationally available Medicare Part D prescription drug plans can be found on the 2008 Prescription Drug Plan state pages found on Medicare-PartD.com.

Monthly Part D plan premiums in 2008 will range from $9.80 (MedicareRx Rewards Standard in Arizona) to $107.50 (Humana Complete in New York) as compared to a range in 2007 of $10 to $110. The average monthly premium across all Part D plans in the 50 states is about $40. The average premium across all Part D plans in 2007 was $32. However, CMS expects that the average Part D premium that will actually be paid by Medicare beneficiaries should be around $25, only slightly higher than the actual average Part D premium of $22 in 2007.

2008 Choices: According to the newly released CMS data, an average of 91% of the Medicare beneficiaries will have access to lower cost Medicare Part D plans in 2008 -- as compared to 83% of the Medicare beneficiaries in 2007. On average, there will be 53 Medicare Part D plans offered in each state during 2008, with up to 63 prescription drug plans available in the Pennsylvania and West Virginia region. Further, although only 15% of the Part D plans offered coverage in the doughnut hole in 2006, around 30% of the Part D plans will provide some generic prescription drug coverage during the gap in 2008. That is the good news. (The 2008 coverage gap or doughnut hole is the portion of your Medicare Part D plan that starts after your total retail costs reach $2,520 and continues until your total retail cost reach $5,726.25 or when you have actually spent a total of $4,050 out of pocket. Here is a Medicare-PartD.com guide to help. )

2008 Challenges: The bad news for many Medicare beneficiaries is that no 2008 Part D prescription drug plan will offer complete brand-name drug coverage through the coverage gap (although the regional Citrus Part D Plus plan offers some brand-name gap coverage for Florida residents). The coverage gap aspect of the 2008 Part D plan landscape will certainly pose a hurdle for beneficiaries who are dependent upon medications with no generic alternative. To help Medicare Part D beneficiaries forecast their potential prescription costs in 2008; a free Doughnut Hole cost estimator is available to provide some insight into budgeting and planning for next year's doughnut hole or coverage gap. Also, the 2008 Medicare.gov planning tool estimates Part D plan costs based on prescription usage and should be available on October 11, 2007.

What's next? On Monday, October 1, Part D plan providers are permitted to begin marketing their new Medicare Part D plans. Medicare Part D plan providers are required by the end of October to send letters to all of their plan members explaining the changes in the next year's prescription drug plan. The annual enrollment period for 2008 Medicare Part D plans begins on Thursday, November 15 and continues until December 31. Please note that if you are satisfied with your current 2007 prescription drug plan and agree with the 2008 changes, you do not need to make any enrollment decision during the annual enrollment period (or Annual Election Period - AEP) and your 2007 Medicare Part D plan will continue with any new changes or features through 2008. What to do? Begin now to review 2008 Part D plans, take your time and make sure you are well informed before making a decision for 2008.

Medicare-PartD.com is one of the largest internet sources of Medicare Part D prescription drug information. The Medicare-PartD.com website is jointly supported by National Insurance Markets, Inc (Pittsburgh, PA) and Q1Group LLC (Saint Augustine, FL).

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Campbell Johnson MBA, MSEd, JD

Susan Johnson MS-MIS, MBA, PhD
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