Did you receive your Medicare & You 2013 handbook this week? If you didn't, it should arrive soon. Or, you can view it online.
As you know, the annual Medicare enrollment period begins in about two weeks, 15 October. Both the physical handbook and the Medicare website are well designed, useful and easy to understand. It's one of the things the federal government is good at and you should take full advantage.
On the day my Medicare handbook arrived, so did another booklet about renewal of my Medicare Part D (prescription drug) plan. Now back in August, a Medicare press release was headlined, Medicare Prescription Drug Premiums To Remain Steady For Third Straight Year. It began:
”Average basic premiums for Medicare prescription drug plans are projected to remain constant in 2013, Health and Human Services Secretary (HHS) Kathleen Sebelius announced today.
“The average 2013 monthly premium for basic prescription drug coverage is expected to be $30. Average premiums for 2012 were projected to be $30 and ultimately averaged $29.67.”
Remain constant? Oh, yeah?!
When I checked my Part D booklet for the 2013 premium, I was shocked to see that has increased by 22.5 percent. Did you get that? Not 2.25 percent. It's not a typo. It's 22.5 percent.
And indeed, the double-digit premium increases for Part D based on a report from Avalere Health are all over the media this week.
Here are the increases according to Avalere for seven of the most popular drug plans:
- Humana Walmart-Preferred Rx Plan (23%)
- First Health Part D Premier (18%)
- First Health Part D Value Plus (17%)
- Cigna Medicare Rx Plan One (15%)
- Express Scripts Medicare-Value (13%)
- HealthSpring Prescription Drug Plan (12%)
- Humana Enhanced (11%)
Even so, not every plan is increasing its premium so dramatically. The Washington Post notes:
”The administration’s [$30 average monthly premium] number is accurate as an overall indicator for the entire market, but not very helpful to consumers individually since it doesn’t reflect price swings in the real world.”
The Post also reports that the increases are not due to the Affordable Care Act which is saving elders money by gradually closing the infamous donut hole. If you reach the coverage gap in 2013, you will pay 47.5 percent for covered brand-name drugs and 79 percent for generic drugs.
Further from the Post:
”...the price hikes appear to be driven by market dynamics, and some insurers are introducing new low-premium options to gain a competitive advantage on plans that are raising their prices.”
If your premium is increasing as much as mine, it would behoove us (90 percent of Medicare beneficiaries purchase drug coverage) to compare drug plans and choose a less expensive one that meets our needs. More from the Post:
”...a major new low-cost plan entered the market. Premiums for the AARP MedicareRx Saver Plus Plan will average $15 a month nationally, although it won’t be available everywhere. That’s $3.50 less than the current low-cost leader, the Humana Walmart plan, whose premiums are rising to $18.50.”
(It's not available in my area.) Keep in mind that if the AARP plan makes sense in your case, you must be a member to purchase that coverage - $17 per year – and some people have policy/political reasons for not joining AARP.
For other choices, even now before the official enrollment period, you can see what plans are available to you with the Medicare Plan Finder.
Some elders' drugs are covered by their Medicare Advantage programs and those premiums are expected to remain steady for 2013.
For most Medicare beneficiaries, traditional and Advantage members, that leaves one more question mark for health coverage prices next year – the Part B premium which is currently, for most of us, at $99.90.
The federal government has not yet made an announcement but those who prognosticate on such things predict an increase of between $7 and $10 per month.
No story at The Elder Storytelling Place today. New stories will appear again next week.