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Should you change your Part D coverage?

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Each year, Medicare beneficiaries get another chance to switch their plans. Most people will have a choice between 30 or more plans.  For a lot of people, having so many choices can be mind-boggling and so they stay with the same plan year after year despite the fact that their plans change.  Maybe it’s not so much because people find selecting a plan confusing but rather because people think that showing loyalty to a particular insurance company is important.  Whatever the reason, there are several areas you should review each year during open enrollment.  They include:

Covered medications. You should verify that any new medications are covered and any current medications continue to be covered by your plan.  Formularies change each year and what once was covered may no longer be covered.  Some prescriptions are so expensive that missing this area can be seriously costly over the course of a year.  Insurance coverage may also require you to jump through extra hoops in order to get certain prescriptions covered or to gain access to higher cost drugs when a generic model is available.

Premium prices. The average increase in the cost of premiums was 4 percent but some premiums increased by at least 10 percent and one increased by 52 percent according to an article in USNews.

Out-of-pocket costs. Deductibles, copayments and coinsurance change yearly.  They aren’t always to higher prices so it’s good to look at the entire plan so you don’t get caught up in purchasing a plan with a lower deductible by paying much higher premiums, it might not be such a good deal.

Your other coverage. Some people have access to medical coverage through a current or former employer or through a union.  Those people should take a good look at how that insurance plays with their Medicare coverage to make sure that they complement each other.

Your health care provider. Plans change and so does the insurance your doctor, hospital or other provider takes.  Make sure that you can continue to access your current providers or if you’re looking to change, make sure that your plan has doctors who are able to accept new patients and a network of hospital and care providers that are convenient for you.

Quality of care. Are you happy with the quality of care you receive from your current providers or did you find you had problems with them?

Travel.  Are you planning to travel to another state or country?  Does your plan cover you while you are away?

Gap coverage. The coverage gap is shrinking but while no insurance plan completely fills the gap, some offer some coverage of generic or brand-name medications for higher monthly premiums.

The ease of using your benefits. If you need prescription drugs, do you need to use a preferred pharmacy in order to obtain them and if your insurance coverage allows you to choose a pharmacy not on their preferred pharmacy list, do your costs go up?

Medicare beneficiaries have until Dec 7 to change their insurance plans for 2015. A recent Kaiser survey found that consumers often find it confusing to compare traditional Medicare with Medicare Advantage.  You can read the report here.

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