One of the most important and, for some, puzzling times of year is the Medicare annual enrollment period, when more than 55 million Americans are able to evaluate and enroll in Medicare Advantage or prescription drug plans. Among the top concerns for Medicare beneficiaries today is prescription drug costs, according to a new Walgreens survey. However, more than one-third (34 percent) say they aren’t taking time to review their prescription drug plan prior to renewing it and almost one-in-five (19 percent) don’t have a good understanding of their plan.
In addition to the 34 percent of beneficiaries who said they don’t review any aspect of their current Part D plan:
- Twenty-two percent look at just one component, checking, for example, to see if their own medications are covered, yet not looking at any other important considerations.
- One-in-five (21 percent) of people surveyed falsely believes that all pharmacies charge the same copay.
- One-third (33 percent) don’t know they can switch pharmacies outside of the enrollment period, at any time of year.
The survey of 1,000 Medicare Part D beneficiaries was conducted in advance of Medicare’s annual enrollment period, which runs through Dec. 7.
“This latest survey reinforces the need to educate beneficiaries about how plans and coverage can and do change from year to year, as can a person’s health and prescription needs,” said John Lee, senior director of Medicare for Walgreens. “It’s critical for people to be able to get the medications they need, at prices they can afford. One of the ways we’re helping to address this need is through participation in preferred pharmacy networks with most of the leading, national Part D plan sponsors. Our pharmacists are also a valuable community resource to help people understand Part D information and their coverage options.”
Other findings of the survey include:
- When choosing a pharmacy, 30 percent of Medicare beneficiaries said copay costs are the most important factor, followed by pharmacy location (18 percent) and the opportunity for one-stop shopping (18 percent).
- The cost of health care remains a chief concern to respondents, and prescription costs slightly outrank other costs as being of greatest concern (35 percent). Just below drug costs are expenses associated with assisted living (33 percent) or hospital and emergency room services (32 percent).
- In an effort to manage costs, 12 percent of survey respondents said that they’ve delayed filling a current prescription, and another 9 percent have skipped occasional doses to stretch medication supply.
“Any time individuals aren’t remaining adherent to medications it’s a concern, as it can pose significant health risks, and can also lead to more healthcare expenditures in the long run,” Lee said.
Lee said that three important things to check when renewing Part D coverage are:
- Make sure your prescription drugs are covered.
- Review the cost of premiums, deductibles and copays.
- Verify whether your plan has preferred pharmacies.
Walgreens is in the preferred pharmacy network for many of the largest Medicare plans, including Aetna, Cigna, EnvisionRx, Express Scripts, First Health, Humana, SilverScript and UnitedHealthcare, as well as several Blue Cross/Blue Shield plans that use Prime Therapeutics as their pharmacy benefit manager. Some plan sponsors narrowed their pharmacy networks for 2017 but still have Walgreens as a preferred pharmacy. Starting in January, some of these plans offer copays as low as $0 for generic medications filled at a preferred pharmacy such as Walgreens.
Medicare beneficiaries seeking help navigating insurance plans can visit walgreens.com/medicare. In addition, Walgreens has teamed up with eHealth, an independent, fully licensed health insurance broker that works with more than 180 insurance carriers nationwide. Free, personalized advice from a licensed eHealth advisor is available by visiting ehealthmedicare.com/Walgreens. Walgreens also offers a Medicare Savings Guide in its stores and online, and Walgreens pharmacists are available to help beneficiaries explore ways of lowering prescription costs by recommending options such as 90-day refills and lower-cost brands.
Medicare beneficiaries can also consult 1-800-MEDICARE and www.medicare.gov to review and compare plans.