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Posted: September 30, 2008

Shop for Best Medicare Drug Plan Pricing; Some Rates to Skyrocket

The price of policies for Medicare’s Part D prescription drug benefit are likely to increase next year – in some cases dramatically – and seniors are being encouraged by federal health officials to start shopping around now for their best deals.

Also, officials of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) noted that some plans will change the list of drugs they cover, which could impact a Medicare beneficiary’s decision.

Officials did say, however, that they did not expect the overall Medicare Part D program to look much different next year, although most monthly premiums will increase somewhat. However, the pockets of significant change in price and coverage were apparent enough that the elderly and their family caregivers should look closely before simply renewing. The period for Part D signup or switching begins November 15.

For the elderly enrolled in the 10 most popular drug plans, the monthly costs will increase between 8% and 64%, according to an analysis by the consulting firm Avalere Health.

Specifically, the monthly premium for the most popular Medicare Part D plan, the AARP Medicare Rx Preferred Plan, will increase 15%, from $32 to $37. Overall, the next most popular plans are operated by Humana Inc., where the premium for the standard Humana plan will see an increase of 60%, from about $25 to $40, while the premium for the enhanced Humana plan will go up from about $23 to $38.

Under the Medicare umbrella, the nation's 44 million beneficiaries can purchase a drug plan only, or they can choose to get all of their health benefits through a Medicare Advantage plan. CMS said the drug-only plans offering standard coverage will raise rates on average from $27 to $32 next year. Medicare Advantage plans will rise from $18 to $21 on average, CMS said. 

While the open enrollment period begins November 15, it will close to al eligible seniors on December 31.

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