Open Enrollment for 2012 begins on Saturday, October 15, and ends on Wednesday, December 7, 2011.
According to Q1Medicare.com, there will be 1,041 Medicare prescription drug plans (PDPs) in the United States in 2012. Although that’s 535 less plans than there were in 2010, 1,041 is still a large number, especially when you consider most beneficiaries can choose from 30 or more plans that cover their region.
Another issue that only adds to the confusion is the massive amount of advertising and marketing that private insurers do from October through December. As with any product, just because a plan advertises a lot or has an expensive-looking, slick brochure, it doesn’t mean that it’s the best plan for you. A magazine ad for Rolls Royce may look great, but if your income is limited or you are the chauffeur for lots of grandchildren, a Rolls is not practical.
2012 National Part D plan statistics: A real eye-opener
As with shopping for a new car or planning a big vacation, due diligence is critical when reviewing your Part D options. I think you’ll agree with me when you consider just a few facts from Q1Medicare.com about all the Part D plans for 2012:
Average number of plans per region: 31
Number of plans with a $0 annual deductible: 488 (about 14 per region)
Number of plans with a monthly premium less than $25.00: 60
Lowest cost premium: $15.10
Highest cost premium: $131.80
Number of plans that provide any coverage in the Coverage Gap: 270
Lowest cost premium in a plan with any coverage in the Gap: $54.50
Start with the Medicare Plan Finder tool
Medicare’s Plan Finder tool is a great way to start weeding out your plan options for 2012. By entering your zip code, answering a couple questions about what type of Medicare coverage you have now and what kind of financial assistance, if any, you receive, you can start to narrow down the choices. You can also refine your search by entering your drugs and your pharmacy, and by choosing limits on the monthly premium, annual deductible, coverage amount, etc.
For example, by doing a preliminary search, Plan Finder found 50 plans that were available to me. By narrowing down the search using my preferences on pricing and coverage, I got it down to 35 plans. That’s still a lot, but I did not use all the available filters so I’m sure I could have gotten it down even more if I spent a few more minutes fine-tuning my search.
I really can’t tout Plan Finder enough, and highly recommend it for every Medicare beneficiary. The best part is that it’s free, so even if you decide to get paid help from an insurance broker or counselor, you can bring a printout of the search results to your consultation to save some time.
Tomorrow I’ll talk about some Part D marketing schemes that you need to watch out for in the coming weeks.