A week from Monday, seniors will need to decide whether they'll stick with their Medicare Part D prescription plan or find a new one.
They have until New Year's Eve to make that decision, but need to start doing their homework now to avoid penalties.
November 15 is the beginning of a pretty confusing time for seniors. They need to find a prescription drug plan that meets their every medical need.
“Make sure that if they're on new medications or they have a new condition that changes what their medicine needs are they're enrolling in a plan that appropriate for 2011," Cathy McLeer, with AARP South Dakota, said.
And this year there are fewer plans available, which means seniors need to make sure that if they're planning to stick with their 2010 plan, it still exists. And according to a Kaiser Family Foundation analysis, enrollees should expect their average monthly Part D premiums to go up 10 percent next year.
But there is good news when it comes to your plans coverage gap, also known as the donut hole.
That gap in coverage begins when a senior pays $2,840 on drugs. In the past, those who fell into that donut hole were responsible for paying for 100 percent of their medications before they reached what's called catastrophic coverage. But thanks to health reform, that's changed.
“In 2011, when someone hits that coverage gap instead of paying 100 percent of their cost during the gap, they will receive a 50 percent reduction in their brand-name drugs. They'll also receive a seven percent reduction on their generic drugs,” McLeer said.
McLeer says that gap will continue to narrow through 2020.
And since enrollment is only available online, McLeer says it's important those enrolling in a Medicare Part D plan not be afraid to ask questions.
“If you have an adult child that can help you review your plan online and help you sort through some of the medications you're on, get through that Medicare.gov
website and compare some of the plans because it is so important to really be a good consumer and make sure your plan is going to meet your needs in the coming year,” McLeer said.
You can also find help through your local SHIINE Office. They'll even help you navigate your way through the online enrollment. A County Extension Agent in your area is also trained to help. And enrollees can also reach out to the Department of Social Services and Adult Services in Aging.