News Column

Drug Premiums Could Go Up for Florida Medicare Beneficiaries

Sept. 27, 2012

Laura Green, Palm Beach Post

Pills and paperwork

Florida seniors who do not shop carefully for a Medicare prescription drug plan could end up needlessly facing big cost increases in 2013.

Six of the top 10 stand-alone prescription drug plans offered to Medicare beneficiaries in Florida are seeing premium increases of at least 10 percent. One plan premium will jump 32 percent in 2013.

Experts urge seniors to review their plan options each year. Taking the time to input each drug into the online Medicare plan finder tool can help seniors select the best plan for them.

"Plans may change benefit designs or consolidate offerings annually, and beneficiaries do not always reassess their options accordingly," said Varnee Murugan, senior associate at Avalere Health, which analyzed the 2013 bids for Medicare plans.

This year, seniors can select a plan between Oct. 15 and Dec. 7.

Sometimes switching to a new plan yields a better premium or lower drug costs. Some seniors may find that sticking with their current plan -- even with a premium increase -- is worth the cost on the front end because it provides better drug coverage and pricing.

The state's most popular plan, AARP Medicare RxPreferred, will cost just 1 percent more in monthly premiums in 2013. That plan costs $41.40 each month and is expected to enroll more than 324,780 beneficiaries in the state.

By contrast, premiums for the second most popular plan, now called SilverScript Basic, will be hiked 17 percent to $27.60. That plan incorporates three separate plans offered by CVS in 2012. They were previously known as CVS Caremark Value, Community CCRx Basic PDP and Health Net Orange Option 1.

"The premium tends to be the most important factor in choice for (prescription drug plans) -- more than any other factor," said Corey Ford, Avalere Health manager.

But Ford said letting premium be one's lone guide can result in a faulty decision.

"It may have a very low premium, but it also could have tighter formularies, tighter pharmacy networks," he said.

Take the Humana Walmart plan, which is slated to cost $18.50 monthly in 2013. The plan has typically managed costs in part by featuring a tight pharmacy network. Those who buy their prescriptions at Walmart will pay a far lower price than if they get one filled at CVS, for example.

Tight formularies mean that a limited number of drugs are discounted. If beneficiaries sign up for a such a plan and their heart medication is not on the formulary they will have to spend more out-of-pocket to buy the drug.



Source: (c) 2012 Cox Newspapers


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