Alexandria, VA (November 19, 2012) How much will you spend on Medicare next year? If you don’t know, take time to find out now, says The Senior Citizens League (TSCL), one of the nation's largest nonpartisan seniors groups. Rapidly rising Medicare premiums and out-of-pocket costs take a much bigger share of Social Security income than many retirees ever expect. Medicare Part B and Part D premiums and average out-of-pocket costs now take about one- half of the average $1,130 Social Security benefit — a portion that is forecast to continue growing over time. Here are a few recommendations from TSCL:
1. Compare your drug and health plan options during the Medicare Open Enrollment period before it ends on December 7th. Costs can vary by hundreds, even thousands, of dollars, and you may be very surprised by the savings from switching to a better plan. Use the Drug and Health Plan Finder at www.Medicare.gov. Individuals affected by Hurricane Sandy, and unable to make a decision by December 7th, may be able to get an extension and help choosing a plan by calling 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227).
2. Find out if you can get a better deal at another pharmacy: Just because a pharmacy accepts your drug plan card doesn’t always mean you’re getting the lowest cost. To get the lowest co-pays, be sure to use your drug plan’s preferred network pharmacies. Call your plan and request a list of preferred pharmacies or check the Medicare Drug and Health Plan Finder.
3. Look into mail-order pharmacies. When ordering by mail you save money because you order in quantity — a 90-day versus a 30-day supply. Many mail order pharmacies charge lower co-pays for a 90-day supply than what you pay for a 60-day supply. Check with your drug plan to find out if mail order is available.
4. Are you paying for coverage you can’t use? If you’re enrolled in a drug plan that offers coverage in the doughnut hole and your main expense is an expensive brand-name prescription, you may be spending for coverage you can’t use. Most drug plans that cover the gap only cover generics or just “preferred generics,” and you won’t save enough to pay for the higher premiums. Get unbiased help comparing your coverage by calling your Area Agency on Aging and asking for the help of a State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) counselor, or visit online at: https://shipnpr.shiptalk.org/.
5. Apply for Extra Help. Extra Help is the Medicare program for low-income seniors that can help with most or all of the cost of your drug plan premium, deductibles and co-pays. You also get valuable coverage in the Part D coverage gap. If you qualify, you would pay between $1 - $6 for each drug. Apply even if you aren’t sure, because the income requirements are not as stringent as those for State Pharmacy assistance programs.
Are your drug costs increasing next year? Take a poll at www.SeniorsLeague.org. For more ideas about saving on Medicare costs and stretching retirement income, request a free issue of TSCL’s “The Best Ways To Save” newsletter. Send $1 for postage and handling to: The Senior Citizens League, ATTN: BWTS, 1001 N. Fairfax St., #101, Alexandria, VA 22314.