Although enrollment does not begin until 15 November, the Medicare website has just published the Prescription Drug Plans (Part D) available for 2009, and in my case, it is a shocker.
The monthly premium for my current coverage plan increases (are you ready?) by 221.4 percent. No, that is not a typo.
And, according to the calculations on the Medicare site, the co-pay for my single prescription drug at the pharmacy will increase by 160 percent, averaging out to an increase (assuming no additional drugs during 2009) of 186.6 percent.
That is unacceptable, and way above what news stories are telling readers:
“For those enrolled in the 10 most popular drug plans, the cost increases will range from 8 percent to as much as 64 percent, according to an analysis by Avalere Health, a consulting firm.”
- - AP, 25 September 2008
My current carrier is in the top five, so I’m curious to know what the researchers at Avalere Health are smoking.
The same AP story asserts that the “vast majority of participants will have access to prescription drug coverage for the same amount or for less than they're paying now.”
NOT in the state of the Maine!
The least expensive plan available to me for 2009, including both monthly premium and pharmacy co-pay, costs 75 percent more than my current plan – a helluva lot cheaper than 186.6 percent, but still off the charts in terms of what the insurance and pharmaceutical companies are raking in.
Another news story reports:
“In every state, beneficiaries will have access to at least one prescription drug plan with premiums of less than $20 a month, except for beneficiaries living in Alaska who will have access to one prescription drug plan at $23 a month.”
- - Senior Journal, 25 September 2008
That’s a deceptive fact. In Maine, while there is one such plan for 2009, the high co-pay for the drug I take and a high deductible, make it much more expensive annually than a couple of other plans with higher premiums. So when you review your coverage for next year, don’t rely only on the monthly premium - it is important to also compare co-pays and deductibles to keep your increase as low as possible.
Fortunately, the Medicare Part D website makes comparison relatively easy. Be sure, on page 2, to scroll down to the area on the bottom left of the screen where you can click on “View your current plan.” This will show you the premium and other costs for 2009, and allow you to plug in the drugs you use. You can then compare your current plan to other plans in your state which can vary even from county to county.
There are an enormous number of Part D plans in each state – 46 in Maine – but by using the version that allows you to include your drugs in the search, you can reduce the number to plans pertinent to your circumstance.
It is outrageous that premiums can be allowed increase more than 200 percent in a year. With only one drug, my cost is not a lot in dollars, but that huge percentage can make a difference, to people who use several and/or more expensive drugs, between affording drugs and not .
Enrollment for a new Part D plan begins on 15 October and continues until the end of the year. You can save yourself a rush during holiday season by starting now. I’ve tentatively chosen my new carrier - which will increase my costs over this year by "only" 34 percent - although I’m waiting until Medicare posts consumer ratings, which hasn’t been done yet, to confirm the change for myself. If you choose to keep your current Part D plan, you need to do nothing.
The problem of unconscionable price increases (not to mention the hassle of researching and changing carriers each year) is due to unregulated, for-profit insurers and that, unlike Medicaid and the Veterans Administration, by law, Medicare is not allowed to negotiate prices with the pharmaceutical companies. Thank the Republican Congress for that, and for the doughnut hole too.
Although Congress and not presidents make law, Senator Obama has made it part of his platform to work for negotiable drug prices within Medicare if he is elected. The only hope we have of containing annual, astronomical price increases for in the prescription drug program is to elect Obama president.
[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Sharon McKinney shares a powerful story titled Grief.]