The official Medicare website, Medicare.gov leaves a lot to be desired regarding Part D enrollment.
Fortunately this is not the only way to enroll in a Part D plan. Most people enroll in a Medicare drug plan directly with the company offering the plan. But Medicare has placed itself as the middle man between you and the private insurance companies that offer Medicare Rx plans.
All Part D plans are offered by private insurance companies that have been approved and contracted with CMS. The government does not offer any Part D plans.
One has to believe that being able to enroll in a Part D plan through Medicare.gov is intended to be a convenience. Convenient ? Yes. The smartest way to proceed? No.
This article details flaws in the system that could result in you choosing a plan that may not be in your best interest.
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Finding Part D plans at Medicare.gov
The Medicare website is indisputably the best place to see a list of all plans that are available to you. The process is started when you click Compare Health and Drug Plans and enter your zip code.
You have the option to enter you medications and your preferred pharmacies if you wish. Though it’s not required. After completing a few simple steps you can view all of the Medicare drug plans available in your State.
You can scroll down the page and see all plans. You have the option to view 10, 20, or 50 plan results. Here’s the information given:
- The name of the plan and the company making it available
- Estimated annual costs (certainly more relevant if you entered your drugs)
- Monthly premium
- Deductible and copay/coinsurance information
- Drug coverage and drug restrictions
- Over all plan rating (star rating)
- A BIG enroll button
Once you click the enrollment button you are prompted to enter your personal information.
The risks don’t involve your personal information being compromised although stranger things have happened. The risk involves trusting that you have been given enough information to choose the right plan for your circumstances.
Here are the risks:
1. If you didn’t take the time to enter your drugs you don’t even know if they are included in the plan’s formulary.
2. Even if you entered your drugs in order to find a list of plans that included your drugs you don’t know which tiers they are listed in.
3. No information is given about mail order pharmacy options which can vary plan to plan and mean big savings in some instances.
4. The list defaults to 10 plans. If you’re not careful and neglect to expand the list (if more than 10 are available) you have severely limited your options.
5. Some people may tire of scrolling down the list and choose a plan near the top. There seems to be no rhyme or reason for the order in which plans are listed. They are not listed by star rating, cost or alphabetically. If the order was randomly selected it should be shuffled with each log in. It must be sweet to be listed at or near the top!
The right way to enroll in a Part D plan
It’s fine to do some initial leg work by visiting medicare.gov but there is more you should do. The most important consideration when comparing Part D plans is to review the formulary.
Nothing will save you more money and headaches than reviewing Part D formularies to determine if your medications are covered and competitively placed in the lowest tier possible. Medicare Part D formularies are not created equal!
Do the smart thing. Either review a formulary online at the plan’s website or request a printed formulary for review. It just may mean the difference between the right and wrong Part D plan for 2013.