Medicare Open Enrollment 2017—Finding the Best Value Medicare Part D Plan for Mom

Another year has passed and it is again time to find the best value Medicare Part D plan for my mom during Medicare’s 2017 Open Enrollment period that ends December 7. Unless changes are made before December 7th,  Medicare (Parts A, B, C, and D) insurance you presently have will carry over into 2018.  In 2017, my 80+ year old mom was insured with original Medicare (Part A and B) + a Medigap F policy + a Medicare Part D plan.  For the reasons I’ve described in an earlier post,  I will not be “shopping” for a possible Medicare Advantage (Part C) plan alternative for my mom. The evaluation below will only describe “shopping” for the best value Medicare Part D plan for next year.

Medicare open enrollment for best value Medicare Part D plan

After several Open Enrollment evaluations, the process to get the best value Medicare Part D plan has become a simple process that takes me only about 30 minutes to complete.  I do not have to leave the privacy of my home nor do I need to visit a commission-based insurance broker to complete my “shopping”. This online process is outlined below:

  1. Get a list of best value Medicare Part D plans at the Medicare government site  under the ”find health & drug plans” link. After typing in my mom’s name, birth date, and Medicare card information, I simply had to review my mom’s saved drug list from last year (no changes needed) and her retail pharmacy choices before I was presented with 23 Part D plans to choose from. The details of this process are described in the earlier blog posts listed at the end of this post and will not be repeated here. I actually consulted last year’s blogs to refresh my memory on a couple of details.
  2. Determine the best value Medicare Part D plan for mom. The 23 plans available to my mom can be sorted (see the “Sort Results By” drop down menu below) by various variables.

sorting for determining best value Medicare Part D planFor my mom, the best value Medicare Part D plan is one that (1) takes the least amount of money out of her pocket for the year and (2) delivers her drugs to her in a timely, efficient manner without glitches or “grief”.

A quick sorting of the plans using “Lowest Estimated Annual Retail Drug Cost” and “Lowest Estimated Annual Mail Order Drug Costs” revealed that SilverScript Choice was the best value Medicare Part D plan for my mom. These estimated costs are only for the preferred retail and mail order pharmacies associated with the plans. Cost will be higher if other pharmacies are used. The figure below shows how the SilverScript Choice plan compares with her current WellCare Classic plan.

best value Medicare Part D plan in 2018 for mom

Although SilverScript Choice was not the cheapest “acceptable” plan, the cheapest plan would have required that my mom use a Walmart retail pharmacy that in the past did not deliver her drugs in a timely, efficient manner. My mom’s overall experience at the Walmart retail pharmacy was much worse than her experience at both Walgreens and CVS. The small amount of savings the cheapest plan would have provided was simply not worth the aggravation from needing to use the Walmart retail pharmacy.

3. Visit the best value Medicare Part D plan’s website and download plan documents. A Part D plan’s website can easily be reached from the Medicare.gov website. Under the plan’s Overview tab, there is a direct link to the company’s website (as shown in the figure below).

best value Medicare Part D plan evaluation of how to visit insurer website

At the best value Medicare Part D plan’s website, I clicked on the “Documents” tab (as shown in the figure below).

best value Medicare Part D plan webpage showing document tab

I downloaded several of the best value Medicare Part D plan’s 2017 documents into a folder on my computer (e.g., Summary of Benefits, Evidence of Coverage, and Formulary).  In addition, I looked through the Summary of Benefits document to make sure there were no surprises or unexpected plan details that could come back to bite my mom later on. Remember that these plans are designed to maximize insurance company profits (which means maximize the amount of money that comes out of enrollees’ pockets). I saved this website page as a bookmark if I end up needing other documents during 2018.

best value Medicare Part D plan evaluation documents to download

4. Enroll. Returning to the Medicare.gov website, I simply needed to click on the “Enroll” link provided under the SilverScript Choice plan (as shown in the second figure above under Step 2) and answered all questions posed to officially enroll my mom. I kept a copy of the final enrollment information (via email receipt) and my mom needs only wait for the plan documentation to arrive in the mail. It should come before the end of the year.

In January, I will write a blog post describing the final step in this process to find the best value Medicare Part D plan.  This last step will ensure a smooth transition from one Part D plan to the new one. It requires making sure that all my mom’s prescriptions are sent to the correct pharmacies before she runs out of needed pills.

A Few Final Comments on Getting the Best Value Medicare Part D Plan

I wish that all Medicare Part D buyers would evaluate which plan provides the best value for them every year during the Open Enrollment period. This is particularly important if your prescription drugs have changed during the year and your present plan’s formulary has become less “friendly” to you. Medicare Part D plans are sold by profit-maximizing health insurance companies that love customers who do not comparison shop for value. A Kaiser Family Foundation study found that only about 13% of enrollees voluntarily changed plans between 2006 and 2010. I am not surprised by this statistic given the many variables contained within this insurance product (e.g., deductibles, copays, coinsurance, formularies, stages of coverage (initial, donut hole, catastrophic) etc.).  Every time my mom has changed, she has gotten a better value Medicare Part D plan than the one she had.

I hope that my posts have encouraged more people to shop for the best value Medicare Part D plan. If you have any questions during your evaluation, feel free to contact me  and I will hopefully be able to help.

Sources

Where To Get Unbiased Medicare Plan Advice –insurance company brochures are not the most unbiased places to find Medicare informaiton
BB’s Medicare Open Enrollment: Where Do I Begin –how to navigate the government’s Medicare Plan Finder website
BB’s Medicare Open Enrollment: Stand-Alone Prescription Drug Plans –assuming mom stayed with original Medicare
Zeroing In On The Cheapest Medicare Part D Plan –assuming mom stayed with original Medicare
BB’s Medicare Open Enrollment: Medicare Health Plan Choices  –BB collects information about the Medicare Advantage plans available to her mom
Evaluating Medicare Choices For Mom–Conclusions –learn why my mom chose to stay with original Medicare + Medigap F policy + the cheapest stand-alone Part D plan instead of changing to Medicare Advantage

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