Signing Up for a Medicare Part D Drug Plan Is Easy
By Michael Sams
Hey there! I’m Michael Sams here at Sams/Hockaday, and I’m very excited to share one of the most challenging parts about going onto Medicare – how to run your own Medicare Part D comparison. We’ll also go over why it is so important to do so.
In my humble opinion, there is only one way to run a Medicare Part D comparison correctly, and that is to utilize Medicare's website. It can be intimidating at first, but I'll help you navigate through the site to show you just how easy it really is to run your own comparison from your computer.
Follow along with this video tutorial! You can also follow along with written instructions (and screenshots) by going through the rest of this article. We hope this helps, and we want to be your backup if you need assistance!
Don’t Trust Drug Company Flyers or Mailers
One of the things I want to highlight is the fact that many people receive flyers in the mail right before they’re enrolled in Medicare or during the Annual Enrollment Period between October 15th and December 7th.
You get this beautiful looking flyer in your hands, and you want to select a plan off of it. The premium looks affordable, the deductibles are in line, you think that they're going to cover all your drugs because they either did last year or it looks like they will.
Here’s the thing: we can't just blindly pick a Medicare Part D drug plan based off of this flyer that you've received in the mail. You need to verify that it’s the best fit for you by checking via the Medicare website.
Don’t Pick a Plan Because Your Friends or Family Loves It
A common problem that I run into is people talk to friends, family, and neighbors, and they offer advice on what plan is the best.
They may say their current plan is the best, and it certainly may be the best one for them. However, the drugs that they take may not be the same drugs you take. Additionally, you may not be going to the same pharmacy they go to.
You can't just follow your friend, family, or neighbor’s advice because everyone’s circumstance is different, which means the best drug plan for you may not be the same as theirs.
How to Sign Up for Medicare Part D
This can be broken down into four easy steps:
- Go to Medicare.gov
- Enter in your zip code
- Enter in your your prescriptions
- Enter in your pharmacy
When you add in those things, it will automatically calculate all of your options for Medicare Part D in order according to cost.
Step 1: Utilize Medicare’s Plan Finder Tool
Here we go!
Medicare.gov is the first place we're going to begin, and as soon as we get there, we get to click on this green button that says “Find health & drug plans.”
Once we click on that, it's going to take us to the next screen.
Step 2: Enter Your Zip Code and Other Basic Information
This is where we enter in our zip code – under Basic Search.
We are allowed to do a very specific search or a general search, and I just want to skip this first step by saying “I don't know” and “I don't know.”
We do not have to have these particulars in order to get to what we're hoping to accomplish.
When we get to the final part here where it says “Would you like to add drugs,” we will say yes.
I get to click “Continue to plan results,” which takes us to our next step.
Step 3: Enter Your Medications
I'm going to use three prescription medications that are rather common. You may see some similarities to your drug list.
I will add 3 drugs for our example. As you start typing the name of the drug, it will automatically pop up other drugs that follow that same spelling. Choose your drug from the available options.
You want to determine the dosage that you take and the frequency. You don’t need to specify that you get it from a retail pharmacy or mail order. Every option on the drug comparison is going to give you the mail-order option, so we don't necessarily have to click this button. We can just leave it as retail pharmacy.
I'm going to add two more drugs.
After your drug list is complete and you see all of your medications here, you have the option to change the dosage. If you happen to look at your bottle and find out you're taking a different dose or you realize you’re taking a different drug, you can hit remove.
When you’re done, you want to click “My drug list is complete.”
Step 4: Enter your pharmacy
The next step we're going to be looking at is your pharmacy.
This is extremely important! Let's just make it up and say that you're currently using Walgreens, but you wonder how the cost compares to Walmart.
You can add two pharmacies at a time.
Also, let's just say that your pharmacy is not showing up on the list. You can broaden your search to include more milage from your zip code.
There's going to be a lot more pharmacies to choose from, but right now we're dealing with Walgreens or Walmart and we're going to say “Continue to plan results.”
That orange button is at the top.
On the next page, you want to select “Prescription Drug Plans (with Original Medicare).”
I'm going to check that box. It tells me there are 27 plans available, and I'm going to say “Continue to plan results.”
Choosing Your Medicare Part D Drug Plan
Here is the cool thing – all 27 plans are in order according to cost!
Scroll down past Original Medicare and get to the part where it says “Prescription Drug Plans.”
It says “27 plans were found in my zip code.”
I'm viewing the top ten, and if I want to view all of them, I can just select “View All.”
One reason you may want to do that is if you see your number one choice – we’ll call it SilverScript – but you want to know how that compares to the plan that you’re on now.
You can click the box of the number one choice, and let's just say that I'm on a prescription plan called AARP. I want to click on it now that I've selected two plans. I can select up to three, but now that I've selected two plans, I can scroll to the top or the bottom and hit the orange button again.
When I do that, it's going to lay these plans side-by-side allowing me to see them at the same time.
On the left, I have SilverScript, and on the right, I have AARP.
I see the difference in the premium, I see that neither one of them have an annual drug deductible, and I see a significant difference in the cost.
When they estimate the total cost on the year, that includes:
- Your premiums for the whole year
- Your co-payments for the whole year
- A deductible if your plan has one
As we're looking at Walmart and Walgreens under the SilverScript plan vs. Walgreens and Walmart under the AARP plan, you will see that the biggest cost savings is going to come in either pharmacy under the SilverScript plan.
There's a big difference between $1,230 and $1,659!
What I'm going to do now is narrow in on my No. 1 plan. It saves me over $400 from where I am now, so I'm going to hover over the name and click on it. As we click on the name, it gives us the breakdown of the individual prescription costs starting with a monthly drug plan premium, the annual drug deductible, and the fact that Walgreens versus Walmart creates no difference in the price (many times there's a savings when you choose mail-order, but in this scenario there's no savings).
As we scroll down a little bit farther, I get to see my 3 prescription medications. It shows me the full cost of the drug I'm looking at.
Should I switch Medicare Part D plans?
What happens when people get to the plan results is they say, “Holy cow! I have 27 plans… how do I know which one's the best?”
Your No. 1 option that's going to save you the most money is always going to be the first one.
You can always choose that first plan result and dive into the details by clicking on the plan name. After I've selected that plan, and I've navigated my co-pays and know that it's going to work for me, I can simply hit the “Enroll” button.
Then, you enter your name, date of birth, social, address, and all of that kind of information. You will then be enrolled directly in that plan in about 3 minutes. It's very quick, very clean, and very easy.
The only time that you would select anything other than your top choice is if the cost savings wasn’t enough to warrant the hassle.
For example, you may already be on Aetna, and the difference between SilverScript and Aetna on the entire year is a couple hundred bucks – let's call that $15 to $20 a month savings.
You may say that for $15, you may not want to change. In that case, leave it alone.
My rule of thumb is if you can't save at least $200-$250 on the year, it's probably not worth the hassle of changing to another plan. If you find that you're on a plan that's way down on the list – not in your top four or five, we probably want to go ahead and select a new plan for the new year.
I hope this is helpful! We want to be a huge support and a huge backup for you, but I'm encouraging you to go ahead and go to Medicare.gov, navigate these steps that we have shown you, and if you have questions, feel free to reach out! Have a great day!
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