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How to manage and compare Medicare Part D plans

Comparison shopping is important, experts say; insurers often change premiums, copays, coinsurance

I know that everyone who has Medicare Part D for prescription drugs has until Dec. 7 to change policies. I like my current policy. Is there any reason for me to consider switching?

Yes. Insurers often change their Part D premiums, copay and coinsurance charges, and even the drugs they cover, from year to year. The result: Your current policy may be very different in 2018.

Luckily, it’s not hard to comparison shop for Part D plans online at www.Medicare.gov — and you can get free telephone help if you’re not computer-savvy. (See “More Information” below.)

First, list the name, dosage, and frequency taken of each of your prescription drugs. (It’s all on each bottle.) Then, go to www.Medicare.gov and type that information and your ZIP code into the Medicare Plan Finder. It will rank the available Part D plans by estimated cost, star ratings, and drug restrictions, and let you do side-by-side plan comparisons.

Don’t focus just on premiums. A Part D plan’s cost can vary enormously depending on its deductibles and copay structure, and on the drugs you take. You and your spouse may save money by opting for different plans.

“Basic” plans have a gap in coverage — aka the “doughnut hole”: Policyholders must pay out- of pocket for yearly expenses above $3,750, and their coverage resumes when their out-of-pocket spending reaches $5,000. (In 2018, Medicare beneficiaries in the doughnut hole receive a 65 percent discount on brand-name drugs and a 56 percent discount on generics.) By contrast, ‘enhanced’ plans have higher premiums, and offer some doughnut hole coverage.

The bottom line: It pays to shop for Medicare Part D every year.

More information: Call Medicare, (800-633-4227; the Medicare Rights Center, 800-333-4114; the NY State Health Insurance Assistance Program, 800-701-0501; or the Nassau County Family and Children’s Association, 516-485-3754; or RSVP Suffolk at 631-979-9490 ext. 18.

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