December 9, 2009

Are You Ready for Medicare Part D 2010?

By Senior Health Insurance Information Program (SHIIP)

The new year is just around the corner and for people on Medicare the last two months leading up to 2010 are particularly important. “The Medicare Part D drug plans for next year were announced in October, and Iowans need to take a good look at what is offered to make sure they are enrolled in a plan that provides the best coverage at the lowest cost,” says Kris Gross from the Senior Health Insurance Information Program (SHIIP).

November 15 through December 31 are key dates. During this period you can enroll in a Medicare prescription drug (Part D) plan if you missed the enrollment deadline earlier. If you already have a Part D plan, you can choose to enroll in a different plan for 2010.

Your first step should be taking a close look at any changes for 2010—the premium, the amount you will pay each time you fill a prescription and the drugs covered by each plan (called the “formulary”). Plans can change from year to year, so you shouldn’t assume that the plan you were happy with this year will necessarily be the best plan for you in 2010.

There are several changes to the standard Part D plan for next year. The deductible will be $310, up from $295 in 2009. The coverage gap, or “donut hole,” will be reached when total drug costs (paid by you and the Part D plan) reaches $2,830. Once your out-of-pocket drug costs reach $4,550, you’ll reach Medicare’s catastrophic coverage, where you pay only 5% of the cost of your prescriptions.

The best tool to help with your check-up is the Medicare web site, This site allows you to enter your prescriptions and pharmacy and get a comparison of the plans based on total annual cost. If you don’t have access to a computer, you might ask a family member to help, visit your local library or call SHIIP. SHIIP is a service of the state of Iowa and offers free, confidential and objective assistance comparing plans. Call 1-800-351-4664 (TTY 800-735-2942) for the SHIIP site nearest you. It would be a good idea to schedule your appointment soon as the two weeks prior to December 31 will be very busy.

Once again in 2010, Medicare is offering extra help with drug costs through Part D. If your income is below $16,245 as an individual ($21,855 couple) and your resources are below $12,510 ($25,010 couple), you might get help with your Part D premium and drug costs. Call SHIIP or the Social Security Administration, 1-800-772-1213, if you think you might qualify.