How To Save Money On Medicare
Kiplinger's Personal Finance|October 2018
How To Save Money On Medicare

During open enrollment, take a hard look at Part D and Medicare Advantage plans.

Kimberly Lankford

If you have a medicare part D prescription-drug plan or a Medicare Advantage plan (which combines medical and drug coverage), you have an opportunity to switch plans every year during open enrollment, which runs from October 15 to December 7.

Many people put their Medicare Advantage and Part D plans on autopilot, although the choice of plans, costs and coverage, as well as your health care needs, can change from year to year. Sticking with the status quo could be a costly mistake in the coming year, because there have been major changes in benefits and coverage.

“Individuals are going to have to be much more conscious about their health care needs when they choose a plan for 2019,” says Tatiana Fassieux, of California Health Advocates, which runs the state’s Medicare counseling program. More insurers are offering plans with low premiums, but there are trade-offs, such as higher co-payments for drugs or smaller provider networks. If you’re healthy, these plans could save you money. But a low premium plan could end up costing you more if you have expensive medications or a lot of health care needs.

CUT THE COST OF PART D

The average premium for Part D plans is decreasing by $1 per month in 2019, to $32.50, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. New plans are entering the market (such as those from Mutual of Omaha, which offers popular Medicare supplemental insurance, or “medigap,” plans), and more insurers are introducing prescription-drug plans with lower premiums.

But a drug plan with low premiums could actually be more costly if it charges high co-payments. Many plans have four pricing tiers: preferred and non preferred generics (with typical co-payments of $0 to $20 per month) and preferred and non preferred brand-name drugs (you may pay 20% to 40% of the cost). Even if your premiums stay the same, your costs could go up if your drugs are switched to a different tier.

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October 2018