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Nov 12

What is the Donut Hole???

Posted on Sunday, November 12, 2017 in Uncategorized

I am frequently asked 3 questions about a mysterious and misunderstood segment of Medicare Prescription Drug (Part D) coverage:

1. What is the Donut Hole?
2. How do I get in the Donut Hole??
3. How do I get out of the Donut Hole???

Whether your Medicare Prescription Drug Coverage is a “stand alone” Prescription Drug Plan or included in your Medicare Advantage Plan, it has the dreaded Donut Hole.

What is the Donut Hole?  Technically it is the “Coverage Gap” in Medicare, just one segment of the 4 Part D Coverage stages:

• Deductible: If your plan has a deductible, you will pay the “Full Cost” of the drug until you meet the annual deductible, though some plans exclude some “tiers” from deductible.
• Initial Coverage: After the deductible has been met, you generally have fixed amounts to pay for your drugs—Co-pays or Co-insurance (percentage of the cost)
• Coverage Gap (Donut Hole)
• Catastrophic Coverage

How Do I Get IN the Donut Hole??

Part D Prescription Drug Coverage works on a calendar year basis, January 1st through December 31st. As you fill prescriptions throughout the year, your plan is keeping track of the “Full Cost” of your drugs. For example you may pay $3, $20 and $47 dollars for three different drugs that actually cost $11.55, $66.23 and $454.81 dollars.
If the FULL COST of your drugs added together in the calendar year reach a certain threshold, (which changes each year), it is $3750.00 in 2018…YOU ARE IN THE DONUT HOLE!!

All Plans have the Donut Hole, and what you pay for drugs changes to a percentage of the “Full Cost” your Part D Plan has for your prescriptions. In 2018 the costs are 44% on Generic drugs and 35% of Brand drugs. (the percentages change each year)

How Do I Get OUT of the Donut Hole???

Stay with me here! Your “True Out Of Pocket” (TROOP) costs must reach $5000.00 in 2018. The 5000 really has nothing to do with the 3750, it is 2 different calculations! The TROOP of 5000 is reached by adding up what YOU actually paid initially, this includes deductible if any, then co-pays/co-insurances in Initial Coverage plus the 44% on generics/35% on brands in the Donut Hole, AND the drug manufacturer of your Brand name drugs contributes 50% of the cost of the Brand drug. If this adds up 5000, then…YOU ARE OUT OF THE DONUT HOLE!!!

Now you are in Catastrophic Coverage. Costs generally go down. For 2018, you will pay the greater of 5% of the full cost of your drugs, or $3.35 for generics, $8.35 for brands. This will continue to the end of the year, and it starts all over again from the beginning on January 1st!

Pretty easy, right? LOL!

Oct 1

Do You Have the Right Part D Plan for 2018?

Posted on Sunday, October 1, 2017 in Uncategorized

A good way to compare Rx costs on your current Part D plan for 2018 is on the official U.S. government site for Medicare:

• Go to www.medicare.gov
• Select the green tab for Find Health and Drug plans
• Enter zip code
• Step 1 Enter Information (about your current type of Medicare coverage)
• Select Current “Drug Plan” (Find your 2017 plan)
• Step 2 of 4. Enter Your Drugs. When finished click “My drug list is complete”
• Step 3 of 4. Select Your Pharmacies. You must select 1, but no more than 2
• On the next page, Step 4, Refine Your Plan Results, the choices are:

o Prescription Drug Plans (with Original Medicare)
o Medicare Health Plans with drug Coverage (aka Medicare Advantage)
o Medicare Health Plans without drug Coverage

Select “Prescription Drug Plans” and it will sort the choices in order for the projected lowest overall costs for all of 2018. “Overall” is the combined total of monthly premiums for the plan, plus the costs to fill prescriptions for all of next year. It will show prescription costs if purchased at a retail pharmacy, as well as through mail order. 2018 data should be on-line as of 10/1/17.

You will receive an Annual Notice of Change (ANOC) from your current plan provider every year at this time. This tells you about any changes for 2018.

Common Reasons for Changing Part D
• Formulary Change: The formulary is the list of drugs your plan covers. Make sure all of your drugs will be covered next year. If they are dropping any of the drugs you take, you would have to pay full price for them next year!
• Changes in the Pharmacy Network: Just because your favorite drug store accepts your plan this year, doesn’t automatically mean they will next year.
• You Now Take Brand Name Drugs: Your Rx list of will change throughout your life. Your current plan may cover your brand, but it may be cheaper on another plan.
• Drug Tier Change: Prescriptions are categorized into “tiers”. Many plans have a 5 tier system that looks like this:
1. Tier 1: Preferred Generic
2. Tier 2: Generic
3. Tier 3: Preferred Brand
4. Tier 4: Non-Preferred Drug
5. Tier 5: “Specialty” Drugs
If some of your drugs have switched tiers, you may pay more for them next year.
• Big Increase in Plan Premium: How much is too much? It’s up to you, but it makes sense to check and see if another plan is significantly more cost effective.

Mar 2

Did You Get A Letter From Me?

Posted on Thursday, March 2, 2017 in Medicare

Brian Weems Williams Letters About Medicare