Medicare drug enrollment for 2018 starts Sunday, costs going up – Naples Daily News

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Medicare enrollees could save money by looking over plan options for next year, experts say. 

Open enrollment for the federal insurance program and for drug plans will begin Sunday, Oct. 15, and end Dec. 7 for seniors to make changes for their 2018 coverage.

Americans 65 and older with Medicare coverage can switch to Medicare Advantage plans that are all-inclusive with drug coverage. There are 20 Advantage plans being offered in Collier County next year and 26 in Lee County.

Seniors who prefer the original Medicare program need to review Part D options for prescription coverage because they could see some savings in out-of-pocket spending. About 58 million Americans are on Medicare.

Related: Medicare open enrollment begins Sunday: Answers to your insurance questions

“Medicare open enrollment is your once-a-year opportunity to compare plans to find one that best meets your needs at a price that is right for you,”  said Lina Walker, AARP’s Public Policy Institute vice president.

“Medicare health and prescription drug cost-sharing can vary widely between plans for the same drug or service,” Walker said, ”so it’s smart to look at your options each year and switch if necessary.”

There are 21 stand-alone Part D plans next year for Florida residents to compare if they are enrolled in original Medicare. There are two new plans from Aetna and name changes for two plans from Florida Blue, according to Hallie Devlin, a coordinator in Collier County and Bonita Springs for Serving Health Insurance Needs of Elders (SHINE).

The maximum allowable annual deductible will rise to $405 in 2018, compared with this year’s maximum of $400.

Eight plans in Florida have no deductible, and seven will have the $405 deductibles, although the deductible will not apply to all drugs in their formularies. In addition, six plans will have the maximum deductible that applies to all drugs, Devlin said.

The maximum monthly premium in Florida next year will be $198, up from $179 this year.

“As always, Medicare beneficiaries should not base their selections on premium alone or whether a plan has a deductible,” Devlin said.

“Depending upon the medications that they are taking, they may be better off with a higher premium or an annual deductible if the plans provide fuller coverage for their particular medications,” Devlin said.

There are about 110,000 Medicare beneficiaries in Collier and an additional 12,000 in Bonita Springs.

Cynthia Nyquist, 70, is on original Medicare and used to be on a Part D plan from AARP through United Healthcare, but she switched this year to the AARP Walgreens plan. Devlin calculated her costs based on her medications and the plans’ drug lists, or formularies. She and her husband, Scott Nyquist, also 70, saved some money making the switch. The key is approved drug lists can change from year to year.

“That drives you crazy,” Nyquist said.

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About 12 percent of Medicare enrollees change their drug plans each year, according to the Kaiser Foundation.

Volunteers with SHINE are a big help each year, Nyquist said. They will offer free enrollment assistance at numerous sites in Southwest Florida.

    Volunteers are able to take a senior’s list of medications and plug them into a computer program to run comparisons of different plans.

    “My guess is that the new Aetna Select plan will be popular, as it will be the lowest premium at $17.70 per month,” Devlin said. “I suspect that the other low-premium plans, such as AARP Medicare Rx Walgreens, SilverScript Choice, and WellCare Classic, also will be popular.”

    Nationally, the average drug plan premium will remain stable next year at $33.50, down slightly from $34.70 in 2017, according to the Medicare Rights Center, a consumer advocacy group in Washington, D.C.

    Seniors who take many medications or more expensive ones often reach a coverage gap known as the “doughnut hole.”

    For next year, beneficiaries will have a 65 percent discount on the cost of their brand-name drugs when their drug spending, coupled with what their plan spends, comes to $3,750. The gap coverage ends after the combined spending reaches $5,000. The discount on generic medications in the doughnut hole next year will be 56 percent.

    Both discounts next year are a boost from 60 percent this year on brand drugs and 49 percent on generics.

    Part D seminars

    Free seminars on Part D will be offered at the following sites in Collier County and south Lee County. No registration is required, but for individual advice, bring your Part D card and a list of your medications and dosages:

    • Vanderbilt Presbyterian Church, 1225 Piper Blvd., Oct. 19 at 9:30 a.m.; Oct. 20 at 2:30 p.m.
    • St. William Catholic Church, 601 Seagate Drive in the back of the church, Oct. 25 at 9:30 a.m.; Nov. 14 at 2:30 p.m.
    • Emmanuel Lutheran Church, 777 Mooring Line Drive, Oct. 27 at 9:30 a.m.; Nov. 6 at 2:30 p.m.
    • Marco Lutheran Church, 525 North Collier Blvd., Oct. 31 at 9:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.
    • Hope Lutheran Church, 25999 Old 41 Road, Bonita Springs, Nov. 3 at 9:30 a.m.; Nov. 9 at 2:30 p.m.
    • Avow Hospice Lyon Center, 1223 Whippoorwill Lane, East Naples, Nov. 30 at 9:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.

    For more information, call SHINE at 1-866-413-5337 or see www.Floridashine.org

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