There are four ways to choose a Medicare Rx plan, otherwise known as a Prescription Drug Plan (PDP). Here they are in order of worst to best:
#4: Put the names of all the PDPs in your area in a hat and draw one out.
#3: Call Medicare and speak to a representative who will ‘help you choose a suitable Prescription Drug Plan’. The phone number is 1-800-Medicare. While this sounds like it should be higher on the list, the reality is that you will probably spend a lot of time on hold waiting and every representative is likely to give you the name of a different plan.
#2: Ask your Pharmacist. This should be number one, but it isn’t. Your Pharmacist is familiar with your prescriptions and should be able to direct you to an adequate plan that will fit your needs. He/she should be able to warn you if your particular prescriptions are not covered by the plan, and any pitfalls to watch out for. While your Pharmacist may be happy to perform this service for you, chances are they are going to recommend a plan that uses their pharmacy as a network provider. In other words, their loyalty may be split between helping you and keeping your business.
#1: Do your own research and make your own decision. This is where Medicare actually steps up to the plate to help seniors out. You need to have Internet access for this one, or know someone who does and will be willing to spend around an hour helping you.
Medicare.gov can be a confusing website with a lot of options and information. But if you know how to navigate it, this site will help you choose the best Medicare PDP for your individual situation. Perhaps for the first time in print, here are the directions on how to navigate Medicare.gov to find the right PDP for you. Before proceeding, be sure to have your prescriptions handy. You will need them.
Go to Medicare.gov home page. Click on Compare Drug Plans (this is under the title Health & Drug Plans). Click Find and Compare plans. Click Begin General Search.
The next page will require you to enter some information. You will need to enter your zip code first. This will help Medicare narrow the PDPs to only the ones available in your area. You will also need to check yes or no as to whether or not you currently have health insurance and yes or no for your Prescription coverage as well. If you hit ‘yes’ a bunch of options will pop up. Feel free to choose the bottom option ‘I don’t know’ for both of these. This will not affect your results. At the bottom choose yes or no as to whether or not you have received a letter from Medicare or Social Security letting you know you qualify for extra help with your prescription coverage. Continue.
If your zip code has two or more counties in it, the next screen will ask you what county you live in. Choose the correct county and go on. The next page you can safely ignore and just hit continue.
Now is where your search gets detailed. Under ‘Get Drug Costs for Available Plans’ click on ‘Enter My Drugs’. You will enter your prescriptions one at a time. I recommend browsing alphabetically. Once you find your Rx, simply click on it and hit ‘Add selected Drug to Your Drug List’. Continue to browse and add your selected drugs until you have entered all of your prescriptions. Hit Continue.
On this page, you will enter your refill quantity and refill frequency. Also make sure you have the right strength for each of your Rx. If a prescription comes in multiple strengths, a drop-down box will allow you to choose the correct one. When all of your prescriptions are correct, hit Continue.
If you have a lot of prescriptions, it would be very wise to select a security Password Date on the next screen and make note of the ID number it gives you. This way, if you ever want to update your search, you will not have to reenter all of your Rx. You can simply call up your saved Rx list. If you don’t want to save your list, hit ‘Skip This Step’. Continue.
The next screen will ask if you want to select your favorite pharmacy. If you are adamant about not changing pharmacies, hit yes. Otherwise hit no and Continue.
This will bring up a list of all of the PDP plans in your area. A lot of information will be on this screen. For each PDP plan, it will show you the monthly premium, the annual deductible (if the plan has one), and whether or not the plan has any coverage through the Coverage Gap.
With this general information, choose up to 3 plans that you would like to compare. Click the little white box by each of these plans. Then click the Compare button at either the top or the bottom of the list.
You have reached pay dirt! All three plans that you have selected will be compared side by side. This wonderful comparison that you have worked so hard for will show you:
* The annual cost of each plan, which includes both the monthly premium and your prescription costs.
* How much each of your Rx will cost monthly on each plan before you reach the Gap, while you are in the Gap, and after the Gap.
* What tier level each of your Rx is on each plan. (hint: Not on Formulary means the prescription is not covered by that plan.)
* Full discounted cost of each prescription.
Congratulations. You are now prepared to choose the Medicare PDP that will work best for YOU.