Useful Medicare Website For Comparing Drug Costs
One of the most frustrating experiences for seniors on original Medicare is shopping for the most beneficial Part D plan during open enrollment each year (and also on your birthday if you live in California). Medicare supplement plans (aka Medigap) are highly standardized and consequently relatively straightforward: your choice is primarily a tradeoff between premiums and deductibles. Part D covering prescription drugs, on the other hand, is complex beyond belief. Comparing plans can be a nightmare. The variables include the availability and prices within each plan for the drugs you take, the plan premium, the plan deductible, your zip code, the supplying pharmacy, not to mention an understanding of the so-called doughnut hole, the change in pricing when the combined cost of drugs by you and the plan exceed $4,430 (in 2022).
There is a website on Medicare.gov that makes it easier to compare the annual costs of a particular medication across multiple plans available in your area rather than having to go to each plan’s website to try to glean the information. This is particularly valuable because you can change your Part D drug plan once each year without the need for any medical underwriting. And drugs that you might be taking long-term could fall off your Part D plan or change cost the following year. So it behooves every senior on original Medicare to check all available plans at least once each year during Medicare open enrollment.
Here’s a brief description of how to navigate the site:
- First go to https://www.medicare.gov/plan-compare.
- Specify Part D plan, enter your Zip Code, and answer the question about cost support (if any).
- Specify Yes to drug costs, then on the next page type the name of your medication and click Add after the system has found it, then specify the package size, dosage, quantity, and frequency, and then add it to your drug list.
- On the following page you will see a list of pharmacies as well as a mail-order choice for higher quantities. Click on those you want to compare, then at the bottom click Done.
- On the next page you will see a list of Part D plans sorted by the lowest combined drug & premium cost based on annual usage (remember the doughnut hole). If you click on Plan Details you will see the cost at each of the pharmacies you chose.
The system is not perfect. Sometimes the price and coverage shown on the Medicare website does not match the information provided by the plan administrator when it comes down to actually purchasing the medication. But given Part D’s insanely complicated pricing system it’s understandable that there might be a few glitches. At the very least this site should improve seniors’ ability to minimize the cost of drugs through Medicare.