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Medicare Part D: What to Expect This Open Enrollment Period
Date:11/13/2009

Plans are boosting premiums, adding deductibles and offering little gap coverage

FRIDAY, Nov. 13 (HealthDay News) -- Seniors enrolled in private, standalone Medicare prescription drugs plans (PDP) could encounter significant changes this open enrollment period, which begins Sunday.

Monthly premiums will rise 11 percent to $38.94, on average, according to an analysis published by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. That's up 50 percent from 2006, the first year that Medicare Part D drug benefits were offered.

"But these changes vary considerably by plan," added Jack Hoadley, a research professor in the Health Policy Institute at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., and one of the report's authors. "Just among the five most popular plans, the premium for one is up by 22 percent for 2010, while the premium for another is down by 3 percent," he said.

So is Medicare Part D still a good buy? It all depends, experts say.

"The general advice is you do have to look beyond the premium and look at what's covered, what your expenses are for the course of the year and whether it works for you with the drugs that you take," said Paul Precht, director of policy and communications in the Washington, D.C., office of the Medicare Rights Center, a nonprofit consumer counseling and advocacy group.

Seniors can access Part D one of two ways. If they're in traditional Medicare, they can select a private PDP from a wide array of options. Or, if they are enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan, like an HMO or PPO, with prescription drug coverage, they can receive Part D benefits through that plan.

Of the nearly 27 million Medicare beneficiaries in Part D, two-thirds are enrolled in standalone PDPs, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation analysis, which examines changes in the PDP marketplace.

With dozens of PDPs from which choose in every region, sifting through the various option
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