Annual enrollment for Medicare is underway; for many Americans, it’s one of the most confusing times of the year.
A recent survey from pharmacy chain Walgreens found that while 55 million Americans can evaluate and enroll in Medicare Advantage or prescription drugs plans, they don’t completely understand the available benefits so they can take full advantage of savings during open enrollment.
More than one-third (34 percent) of those surveyed say they are not taking the time to review their prescription drug plan before renewing. In addition, nearly one-in-five (19 percent) don’t have a good understanding of their current plan.
The survey, conducted by Market Insights Group, polled 1,000 U.S. Medicare Part D beneficiaries, age 65 and older between Sept. 14 and Sept. 25, 2016.
Of the 34 percent of survey respondents who said they don’t review any part of their current Part D plan:
– Twenty-two percent look at just one component, checking, for example, to see if their own medications are covered, yet not looking at any other important considerations.
– One-in-five (21 percent) of people surveyed falsely believes all pharmacies charge the same copay.
– One-third (33 percent) don’t know they can switch pharmacies outside of the enrollment period, at any time of year.
Considering these surprising statistics, it is essential for consumers during this important time to get the right information on plan changes from year to year, something that could ultimately offer considerable savings to millions of Florida seniors.
For a better understanding of available prescription drug coverage, Walgreens offers a range of resources, including:
— Participating in preferred pharmacy networks with most of the leading, national Part D plan sponsors;
— Introducing a website, walgreens.com/Medicare, to help beneficiaries navigate insurance plans;
— Offering a “Medicare savings guide” in Walgreens stores and online; and,
— Teaming up with eHealth, an independent, fully licensed health insurance broker, for free, personalized advice from a licensed eHealth adviser.
As Floridians consider coverage during the open enrollment period — through Dec. 7 — Walgreens has provided some real-world data on knowledge of Medicare Part D options, including exploring ways of lowering prescription costs by recommending options such as 90-day refills and lower-cost brands.
Other findings of the Walgreens survey include:
— When choosing a pharmacy, 30 percent of Medicare beneficiaries said copay costs are the most important factor, followed by pharmacy location (18 percent) and the opportunity for one-stop shopping (18 percent).
— The cost of health care remains a chief concern, as prescription costs slightly outrank other costs as being of greatest concern (35 percent). Just below drug costs are expenses associated with assisted living (33 percent), or hospital and emergency room services (32 percent).
— To manage costs, 12 percent of survey respondents said they’ve delayed filling a current prescription, and another 9 percent have skipped occasional doses to stretch medication supply.
Walgreens is a member of the preferred pharmacy network for many of the largest Medicare plans, including Aetna, Cigna, EnvisionRx, Express Scripts, First Health, Humana, SilverScript and UnitedHealthcare, as well as several Blue Cross/Blue Shield plans that use Prime Therapeutics as pharmacy benefit manager.
Although a few plan sponsors narrowed their pharmacy networks for 2017, many continue to have Walgreens as their preferred pharmacy. Beginning January, some plans will offer copays as low as $0 for generic medications filled at preferred pharmacies like Walgreens.