Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Save money by choosing right Medicare Part D plan

You've seen the ads on TV. • "Want to save money on your car insurance?" a voice booms. • You call your agent, are told you meet the requirements, change policies and save a bunch of money. • Just like that. Pretty slick. • Well, guess what? You can do the same thing with your Medicare insurance plan.

It's true, there won't be a TV pitchman to help by telling you which plan to pick and explaining exactly how much money you'll save. You can't just call your agent and order up a new plan. There are too many variables, because there are too many drugs.

You see, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2.6 billion prescriptions were ordered or provided in the United States in 2010.

Those orders were placed from a list of the, according to the National Drug Code Directory, 35,574 human prescription drugs available.

So, just think ... prescription providers can cover, not cover or partially cover any of that dizzying number of drugs. To make the matter even more complex, a provider can change a drug's coverage status from year to year.

There's no way around it. You have to do the work yourself — with the help of this special Medicare open enrollment section and Medicare's Plan Finder — to customize the plan to fit your prescription needs.

But if you want to save money, perhaps lots of money, it's worth the time and energy.

Get facts before picking

It's surprising how much people do not know about Medicare.

A survey of 1,100 people over the age of 65, commissioned by Express Scripts, found a high degree of confusion without even getting into an Obamacare discussion. (Remember: You do not need, want — and, in fact, aren't even eligible for — Obamacare if you are on Medicare.)

Anyway, among the survey's findings:

• 26 percent of those 65 and older don't know how to choose a Medicare plan.

• 31 percent of current plan holders say they'd rather stick with the plan they have than deal with finding a better one.

In other words, a quarter of the respondents didn't know how to pick a plan in the first place and a third of them stick with the one they end up picking year after year even if they really didn't know what they were doing when they picked it. Too much work to figure out if it continues to meet their needs.

Wait. It gets worse. Sixty-five percent of the 1,100 people surveyed in August didn't even know that Medicare's open enrollment begins in October. And more than three-quarters of them didn't know that, thanks to health care reform, the coverage gap — the temporary limit (also called the "donut hole") on what a drug plan will cover after you've spent a certain amount — is narrowing a little every year and will be completely gone in 2020.

Despite this, more than half the people in the survey incorrectly believe that as a result of health care reform, they'll be paying more for their prescription drugs in the gap.

Don't be misinformed. Do your homework. Find the plan that best fits your prescription drug needs, and remember that might not be the same plan you had last year or the one you'll need next year. Don't automatically go for low premiums or monthly rebate checks without a thorough comparison because, yep, if it looks too good to be true, it probably is. Whether you choose original Medicare and supplemental policies, or an all-in-one Medicare Advantage policy, your essential sources of information are still the official Medicare & You handbook and, even better,, which allows you to search for plans according to your health needs and budget.

Ready to get started saving money? Let's go.

And, good luck.

News researchers Natalie Watson and Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Patti Ewald can be reached at

Save money by choosing right Medicare Part D plan 10/14/13 [Last modified: Saturday, October 19, 2013 4:08pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Sen. Angus King, I-Maine reflects on the news from the Congressional Budget Office analysis that could imperil GOP leaders' hopes of pushing their health care the plan through the chamber this week, Tuesday, on Capitol Hill in Washington. [AP photo]
  2. Review: Dan Auerbach, Benjamin Booker plumb the past for inspiration on new albums

    Music & Concerts

    It didn't take Benjamin Booker long to get lumped in with the greats. The Tampa-raised singer-songwriter's 2014 self-titled blues-punk debut brought widespread acclaim, not to mention an appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman, a tour with Jack White and sessions with Mavis Staples.

    The cover of Benjamin Booker's new album "Witness." Credit: ATO Records
  3. Fourth of July in Tampa Bay: parades, hot dog parties, concerts and more things to do


    Looking for things to do on the Fourth of July in Tampa Bay? There is no shortage of patriotic events, from the Hot Dog Party concerts and eating contest in Tampa, to the parades in Land O' Lakes and Safety Harbor, to the swinging dance party at St. Petersburg's Museum of Fine arts, there's an abundance of things to do …

    The annual Independence Day parade in Brandon kicks off at 10 a.m. on July 4 at 101 E Lumsden Road. [EVE EDELHEIT   |   Times (2015)]
  4. Pasco deputies investigate vandalism at Crystal Springs Cemetery (w/video)


    CRYSTAL SPRINGS — Pasco County deputies are looking for one or more suspects linked to vandalism of two grave sites in this community's small cemetery.

    An above-ground tomb disturbed by one or more suspects, according to the Pasco County Sheriff's Office.
  5. Republicans struggle to marshal votes for health care bill


    WASHINGTON — Republican leaders scrambled for support Tuesday before a vote to take up legislation repealing the health care law, negotiating, pressuring and cajoling Republican senators but preparing for another embarrassing setback for President Donald Trump.

    Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., center, talks with his chief of staff Sharon Soderstrom, right, and communications staff director Antonia Ferrier, left, as they walk to his office on Capitol Hill in Washington, Monday, June 26, 2017. Senate Republicans unveil a revised health care bill in hopes of securing support from wavering GOP lawmakers, including one who calls the drive to whip his party's bill through the Senate this week "a little offensive." [Associated Press]