Passing along important information concerning Medicare 2015 enrollment and individual plan coverages…

Millions of Medicare recipients could be hit with rising prescription drug premium costs in 2015. Nearly 10 million people now enrolled in six of the 10 largest Part D drug plans face premium increases ranging from 11 to 52 percent if they don’t switch to a different plan. Three other large plans, with nearly 3.5 million members, will drop their premiums by 13 to 31 percent.

The numbers — from Avalere Health, a company that tracks health care trends — come as a sharp reminder that all of Medicare’s private plans can change their costs and benefits every year. Open enrollment, which runs from Oct. 5 to Dec. 7, gives Medicare beneficiaries the chance to find the best deals for next year by comparing coverage and out-of-pocket costs in their current plans — whether Part D drug plans or Medicare Advantage HMOs and PPOs — with what other plans offer. The Medicare Part B premium, which covers doctor visits and outpatient services and is currently $104.90 a month for most beneficiaries, will remain the same in 2015.

It’s especially important, experts say, to look beyond premium payments to analyze co-pays.

“You could be in a drug plan in 2014 where your co-pay is maybe $50 and then for 2015 the plan has increased that amount to $100,” says a senior manager. “So does it still make sense for you to be in that plan? Or does it mean it’s time to shop around and see what else is out there and whether you can get your drugs at a lower price?”

Co-pays differ enormously among Part D plans, even for the same drug. Beneficiaries should compare plans according to the drugs they take, by using the plan finder at medicare.gov (which automatically does the math to identify the plans that cover your drugs at the lowest cost), or by calling Medicare at 800-633-4227. For those who switch plans, the new coverage begins Jan. 1. Those who do nothing will see their current plans continue into 2015.

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– John D. Miller is the founder/owner of Home Care Partners, LLC, a Massachusetts business providing private duty, personalized in-home assistance and companion care services to those needing help in daily activities and household functions. He can be reached at: (781) 378-2164; email: jdmiller@homecarepartners.biz ; or online at: www.homecarepartnersma.com

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