CR: Medicare Drug Plans – Shop around

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Friday, November 6, 2009

Medicare Drug Plans: Shop Around – You Can Save Thousands of Dollars a Year

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Medicare has announced the new Medicare drug plan costs for 2010. The information, which is now online at Medicare.gov, is generally good for consumers; but huge changes exist in the cost of some plans, says Consumers Union, the nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports magazine. Consumers Union recommends seniors and people on Medicare use the next two months to shop for savings.
Consumers Union has been monitoring the total cost of buying five common drugs in five states since the Part D drug program began in 2006. In analyzing the data from Illinois, there are some dramatic improvements, soured by some huge price jumps.
“The new data shows that shopping during the open enrollment period, which runs November 15 through the end of the year, can save you more than $2,206 on a package of five common drugs,” said Bill Vaughan, Health Policy Analyst for Consumers Union. “Each person’s potential savings will be different depending on where they live in the state and which medicines they take, but everyone should check out the new prices. Some plans that were good in the past have become bad deals. Plans that were so-so before are now big savers.”
In Illinois, among 38 plans with comparable data between 2009 and 2010, 25 will go down in total cost (premiums, deductibles, co-pays) and 13 will go up, according to the data on the Medicare.gov website.
“The good news is most Part D plans in Illinois will go down in cost. One plan, Medco Medicare Prescription Plan-Value, reports that the total cost for the package of five drugs will decline $906 dollars from the August 2009 price to the 2010 yearly price,” reported Vaughan. “Many other plans will go down by about $400 or more.”
“The bad news is that several plans jumped dramatically in total cost. The EnvisionRxPlus Gold plan will jump $1,563 between August 2009 and January 2010, according to the CMS website,” said Vaughan. “It is important to shop around, otherwise you could drift into the new year and be shocked with much higher costs when you show up at the drugstore.”
Consumers Union found that of the 10 lowest total cost Illinois plans for the package of five drugs in August 2009, only four will still be among the top 10 lowest cost plans in January 2010. “Don’t count on a plan that is good one year being good in the next year,” warned Vaughan.
“If a Medicare beneficiary is not comfortable using the CMS website to shop, the best Thanksgiving or Christmas present a computer-literate grandchild could give would be to help them shop for a better deal. In Illinois, it could mean hundreds and even thousands of dollars in savings,” said Vaughan.
The five drugs in the package are Altace 10mg (for high blood pressure), Celebrex 200mg (for arthritis type pain), Lipitor 10mg (for high cholesterol), nifedipine 30 mg ER (for high blood pressure/angina), and Zoloft 100 mg (for depression/anxiety). The Illinois zip code is 60406. The package of 5 drugs was selected to monitor price change; it is not a combination that an individual is likely to be prescribed. In addition, since we started monitoring costs, several generic versions of brand-name drugs have become available, and a careful shopper could achieve lower costs for these particular drugs. To maintain cost comparability over time, we have not substituted the available generics, though as a policy we recommend talking to your doctor about substituting generics.
Media contact:
Kristina Edmunson, Consumers Union, 202-462-6262