So far, it is not all bad news. Well at least not for everyone. Medicare Part B premiums will not increase this year. However, for some California residents it may as well because the state will no longer pick up the bill for their Medicare Part B premiums. Social Security benefits recipient will receive the largest cost of living increase granted in 26 years…5.8%. So all is not totally loss…but these small gains will be offset by another Senior Citizen health care increase. A very important one! Medicare Part D premium and co-payments will increase for many of them. Medicare Part D covers prescription drugs.
Medicare and its various programs provide health care coverage for over 50% of the senior citizen population in the U.S. This is the only affordable health care option available to many of them. With the great majority of them living on a fixed income, even the slightest increase in one of their monthly expenses can result in cataclysmic ripples thru their economic well being. With 48 of the 54 available Medicare Part D plans expecting to raise premiums anywhere from 8% to 63%, it is not difficult to understand the anxiety and scary scenarios concerning basic survival that is plaguing some of the seniors.
Add to this, a decrease in the number of no premium due Extra Help plans, beneficiaries increased co-pay responsibilities and a move to encourage enrollment in generic drugs programs even though many brand name drugs have no generic alternative, and it is easy to see why even the medical care community is also expressing concern. Once a Medicare Part D beneficiary exceeds the total available amount of available drug cost for the year they fall into the doughnut hole, a unpopular coverage gap where drug coverage is suspended and the enrollee is responsible for 100% of their drug care cost until their out of pocket expense reaches $4350.
To avoid being subjected to these pitfalls, planning is necessary. We are already into 2009 and it may be too late for some of you to change your plans coverage. But do not let that stop you from beginning, now, to look at your plans annual notice of change for next year. Note what is being offered and begin to compare it with other plans…they are not all the same. You may discover you can obtain better coverage for the price you are currently paying or similar coverage for less. Talk to your doctor and find out if generics or older brand name drugs are okay for you to take. If so, consider enrolling in a lower cost drug plan.
There are trained counselors available at most state health insurance assistance programs that can give you some personal help and advice on selecting a plan that is best for you. A number of pharmaceutical companies offer patient assistance programs that provide free or low cost brand name drugs and supplies. Find out who, what, when, where, and how to get involved. Medicare's Drug Plan Finder is an online aid that will help you determine how much Medicare will pay under your particular Part D plan for drugs. Input your drug dosage, specific drug name and how often you take them. It will do all of the calculating for you and also suggest generics and older brands. Finally, check out the low cost prescriptions for generics programs available at many supermarkets and local pharmacies.
For a lot of senior citizens, the type and availability of health care and drug coverage is life threatening. A number of plans will cost more this year. It is worth your while to compare plans and look at other alternatives so you maintain access to these necessities. It may help you avoid a bigger bill and save your life.