Medicare open enrollment Choosing the Part D drug plan that is best for you

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Jim Solomon, a trained SHIIP counselor, is ready to help area senior citizens choose a Medicare Part D drug plan during the open enrollment period that ends Dec. 7. (Press photo by Shelia Tomkins)

By Shelia Tomkins

Guttenberg Municipal Hospital & Clinics is offering free counseling by SHIIP (Senior Health Insurance Information Program)  at the Family Resource Center in downtown Guttenberg.

The Medicare open enrollment period began Oct. 15 and will end on Dec. 7. Area senior citizens are invited to call (563) 252-3215 to set up an appointment to compare a current Part D drug plan or Medicare Advantage plan with the new line-up for 2018. Counselor Jim Solomon is ready to help residents compare and save. The help is free and confidential, and SHIIP does not sell or promote any plans. 

"Choosing the Medicare Part D drug plan that is best for you in 2019 doesn’t have to be hard if you remember these four things," says to Kris Gross, director of the Iowa SHIIP program. She lists the following points:

1. The drugs you take need to be on the plan’s formulary.  A formulary is a list of drugs that a plan covers.  If a drug isn’t covered you will pay the full cost of the drug out of your pocket.

2. Look at the total cost of the drug plan, not just the premium or deductible or co-payments. A plan with a deductible may cost less than a plan without a deductible if all your drugs are covered and the costs for each drug tier are lower.  

3. Another important consideration that is often overlooked is plan restrictions. Plans may limit the quantity they will supply of certain drugs, require you to get approval before they will fill a prescription or ask you to try similar lower-cost drugs before they will cover a more expensive drug.  

4. Check if your pharmacy is preferred and in-network. Some plans have both preferred and non-preferred pharmacies in their network. You may pay less for drugs at a preferred pharmacy. If your pharmacy is not in-network you will pay the full cost for your drugs. 

"Part D plans can change everything — formulary, costs, restrictions and pharmacy networks from year to year," Gross reminds consumers. "Use the Medicare open enrollment period, Oct. 15 to December, to compare plans and be sure you have the best plan to meet your needs for 2019."

Last year SHIIP, a service of the State of Iowa, helped Iowans save over $23 million dollars by comparing and changing Medicare drug plans.

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