Medicare Part D November 2006
November 2006: Medicare Part D Act 2: Open Enrollment
November 15 marks the first day of open enrollment for the Medicare prescription drug programs across the US. This is the time to review your experience with the plan that you chose last year and to decide if you want to make any changes. By now you should have received the Medicare & You booklet and a packet from your current company with changes to your current plan and its formulary (drug list). If you have a retirement plan, you should soon receive a letter that states whether it is still creditable, that is, as good or better than the standard Medicare D plan.
Medicare states that if you have coverage you like, you need do nothing. But because the plans can change premiums, copays and formularies, it behooves you to take a look. Are you happy with your experience this year? Did you save money? Did the coverage match your utilization? Did you meet the initial deductible? Did you get to the “donut hole” where you had to pay 100%? Was the plan easy to use with your medications and pharmacy? Were customer service representatives helpful? Were all your medications covered? What is the cost of renewing for 2007?
There are 57 plans to choose from in NJ for 2007, ranging in cost from $10.20 to $135.70 per month. Some have no deductible, some cover the coverage gap or “donut hole” with at least generic drugs. Copays may vary for different drugs and costs may vary between pharmacies, even within the same plan. Look at the formularies and cost tiers for your medications.
So what do you do? Here are some helpful options:
- Come to the Information Session at SuzannePattersonBuilding on November 3 at 1 pm. We will review the changes in Medicare B and D, and answer questions.
- Go to www.medicare.gov or call 1-800-MEDICARE to review options for 2007, check formularies, and other important information. On the website you will find a spreadsheet for comparison of all plans, and you can personalize a comparison. You are welcome to use computers at the Suzanne Patterson Building.
- Go to the websites for the program providers to read about details of their programs
- Call to speak to one of the PSRC social service team.
- Call SHIP at 584-5900, option 1 and make an appointment with a counselor who comes to the Spruce Circle office.
It is important to move on this quickly as Open Enrollment ends on December 31, 2006. After that date you can not make changes. It is recommended that you make changes by December 8 to have new cards in place by January 1.
Don’t forget that it may be best for you and your spouse to choose different plans, and to check whether you qualify for “extra help” if you have a low income. From assisting many of you with your initial choice, I know that some chose the least expensive plan because you had few prescription costs, while others went with a familiar provider. I would love to hear from you about your experience this year. I haven’t heard much, which leads me to believe that many of you were pleasantly surprised. Hearing your stories will help me assist others and give feedback to those who advise and make the plans.
Medicare Part B premiums will also change in 2007, as those in higher income brackets will begin to pay higher premiums.
Medicare is also starting a new website: http://mymedicare.gov. Once you get a personal password, you can access your account to see the status of your Part B deductible, order replacement cards, print forms, check your claims history, and receive email reminders and preventive service information.
In related news, the National Council on Aging is urging everyone to press Congress to eliminate the penalty for late enrollment, and the Department of Homeland Security has been confiscating medications ordered in Canada when mailed to the US.
Susan W. Hoskins, LCSW
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