Medicare Prescription Drug Plans: Seniors Need Their Web-Savvy Boomer Children To Help Them Make an Informed Choice

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The December 31st deadline to enroll or change Medicare Prescription Drug plans is fast approaching. Unfortunately, seniors are still confused. The solution lies with their Boomer children getting involved to compare plans by using the Medicare Prescription Drug Plan Finder at http://www.medicare.gov. Here's what Boomers need to know.

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It is the total estimated annual cost that is most important, not just the amount of the monthly premium or whether donut hole coverage is included.

The first annual December 31st deadline for the new Medicare Prescription Drug Program is fast approaching. Unfortunately, the complexity of the program has many seniors still confused.

"The best solution is for web-savvy Boomers to help their parents by using the Medicare Prescription Drug Plan Finder to systematically compare the 50 or so plan choices," says eldercare advisor Esther Koch who is also a Medicare Aging Network Partner with the Administration on Aging and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid.

BACKGROUND INFORMATION BOOMERS NEED TO KNOW

Boomers first need to know exactly what type of healthcare coverage their parent has and whether it also includes prescription drug coverage. For seniors with an employer or union retiree health plan or a Medicare Advantage health plan, prescription drug coverage is likely to already be included. In these instances, there is probably nothing to do as long as the senior received notification that the drug coverage is 'creditable' coverage.

It is important to understand that there are two types of Medicare drug plans: Medicare Prescription Drug Plans (commonly referred to as 'stand alone' plans) and Medicare Advantage Plans. "The seniors that really need to review plans annually are those who have 'stand alone' Prescription Drug Plans," says Koch.

"The goal is to select a Prescription Drug Plan whose formulary covers all of a senior's drug needs," Koch points out. Since it is likely that a senior's drugs plus the plan's formulary, tier structure and pricing will change annually, that may not be the same plan each year.

MEDICARE PRESCRIPTION DRUG PLAN FINDER

Koch stresses, "The primary web-based tool is the Medicare Prescription Drug Plan Finder at http://www.medicare.gov." By entering their parent's zip code and drug names, dosage and 30-day supply, Boomers will obtain a prioritized list of their parent's plan options. They can even save their work and return to it.

Plan options will be sorted from least expensive to most expensive plan based on total estimated annual costs including premiums, deductibles, copays and coinsurance. Total costs vary widely by plan. Koch emphasizes, "Think of this as getting a list of the total cost of all of your holiday gifts if the same gifts were purchased from some 50 different retailers. You should be most interested in the least expensive plans."

In addition, Koch continues, "It is the total estimated annual cost that is most important, not just the amount of the monthly premium or whether donut hole coverage is included."

The five least expensive plans will show up initially. "You can show all plans, do side-by-side comparisons of up to 3 plans at a time, and drill down to more detailed information. Once you have analyzed options and decided on a plan, it is best to go to the plan's website to enroll," Koch points out.

SENIORS WITH LIMITED INCOME AND RESOURCES

Special rules apply to seniors with limited income and resources. These rules are very detailed so the best sources of assistance are:

CONCLUSION

Koch concludes, "This is an opportunity for Boomers to be there for their parents. They need you!"

For more information on Medicare Rx and how to use the Medicare Prescription Drug Plan Finder visit the Encore Management website at http://www.encoremgmt.com under the Medicare Rx tab.

ABOUT ESTHER KOCH

Esther Koch is a gerontologist and eldercare advisor. Her firm, Encore Management, provides personal and corporate advisory services and seminars to assist Boomers with the range of issues associated with caring for an aging parent and their own aging. Her media interviews and articles have appeared on television, radio and in print.

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