Time to review and compare your Medicare drug plan

The end of another summer is fast approaching and one thing that means is Medicare’s Open Enrollment Period (OEP) will be happening soon. Each year from Oct. 15 through Dec. 7, you can make changes to your Medicare insurance here in Alaska, primarily if you have Prescription Drug (also known as Part D) coverage, in order to meet your needs for calendar year 2022. As long as you make your decision and request any coverage changes by Dec. 7, the insurance coverage will be effective on January 1. You may be able to receive better drug coverage at a more affordable price. Even if you are satisfied with your current Part D plan, you should check to see if there is another plan in your area that offers your desired prescription drug coverage at a better price. 

Medicare and You Handbook

If you are currently enrolled in Medicare, watch for the 2021 Medicare & You handbook in the mail and review your health care benefits. If you do not receive one, you can call 1-800-633-4227 (1-800-MEDICARE) and request that a copy tailored for Alaska be mailed to you. You may also download the general handbook at www.medicare.gov. You can also contact one of the Certified Medicare Counselors at the State of Alaska’s Medicare Information Office by calling either 800-478-6065 or 907-269-3680 for answers

to any questions about Medicare benefits. To learn about your employer-provided retiree benefits and/or Medicare Supplement Insurance (Medigap) plan coverage, call your plan directly or read your specific plan’s handbook.

Prescription Drug coverage

If you have a Part D prescription drug plan, you should receive a notice called an Annual Notice of Change (or ANOC for short) and an Evidence of Coverage (EOC). Your plan should send you these notices by September 30. If you do not receive these notices, contact your plan to request copies. These notices list any changes for your plan in 2022.

There are three kinds of changes to look for in an ANOC or EOC. First, look for changes to your plan’s costs for the upcoming year. Costs such as deductibles and copayments can change each year. Second, look for changes to the plan’s network; make sure to see if your preferred pharmacies will still be in network in 2022. And third, look for changes to the plan’s formulary, which is the list of drugs the plan covers. Formulary changes can happen from year to year, meaning your drug may not be covered in 2022 even if it was covered in 2021. Even if it is still on the plan’s formulary, the cost of your drug may have changed.

After reading about the changes to your coverage for 2022, decide whether your plan will still be able to meet your needs in the upcoming year. If you decide to change your coverage, then you may to enroll in a new Part D prescription drug plan during Medicare’s Open Enrollment, which again is Oct. 15 through Dec. 7.

Medicare Plan Finder Tool

The Medicare Plan Finder is an online tool that helps you look up and compare plans in your area. To access the Medicare Plan Finder, visit http://www.medicare.gov/plan-compare. The Plan Finder gives you the option to do either a personalized search or basic search. The personalized search requires you to log in to your Medicare account or make an account if you do not have one. To log in or create an account, click on the button that says “Log In or Create Account.” Once you are logged in, Plan Finder will save your search results and you can access them later. The basic search requires some personal information like your ZIP code, a list of medications you take with

their dosages, and your preferred pharmacy. Your search results will not be saved or accessible once you close the page. To access the basic search, click on the link that says “Continue without logging in.” Once you enter your information, you will be able to compare a list of plans available across Alaska.

Before using Plan Finder, be sure to collect your prescription drugs in order to have the Plan Finder search available plans using your exact list of prescribed medications. Also, you may select a list of pharmacies which you prefer to use, either locally or by using mail order. This will allow you to compare your options and select a Part D plan that is right for you.

For any Medicare related questions or help with reviewing your Part D plan during the Open Enrollment Period, please feel free to contact the State of Alaska Medicare Information Office at 800-478-6065 or 907-269-3680; our office is also known as the State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP), the Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP) and the Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers (MIPPA) program.

Sean McPhilamy is a Volunteer Medicare Counselor with the Medicare Information Office.

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