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Pharmacist Urges Nebraska Medicare Beneficiaries to Compare Prescription Plans

Wednesday, December 16, 2009 General News J E 4
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Open enrollment is an opportune time to find the best plan at the right price

LINCOLN, Neb., Dec. 15 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Through the end of the year, thousands of Nebraska Medicare beneficiaries will be making important decisions about their health coverage. This is when the state's 268,000 Medicare beneficiaries get to decide which health benefits they will sign up and pay for in 2010.

Prescription drug coverage is a critical part of this decision, says Independent Retail Pharmacist Steve Osenbaugh, of Lincoln. According to government statistics, Nebraska ranks third in the nation in the number of Medicare beneficiaries -- more than 88 percent -- with prescription drug coverage.

"Now is the time for these Medicare beneficiaries to make sure that they are getting the prescriptions they need at a price they can afford," Osenbaugh advises.

In Nebraska, there are 46 stand-alone plans that offer Medicare Part D -- or prescription drug -- coverage. Premiums range from $22.80 to $104.10 per month. However, Osenbaugh cautions that premium costs are just part of the true cost of coverage. Plans may have hidden fees and hassles. He urges beneficiaries to be wary of plans that do not include their prescription medications; require high co-pays and other out-of-pocket expenses; have restrictive prior authorization polices; and will force them to try and fail on multiple alternative drugs before paying for those their physician prescribed.

Osenbaugh recommends that Medicare Part D beneficiaries:

"Don't be short-sighted. Take the time to thoroughly examine your options. Doing this can save money and ensure that you have continued access to the medications that your physicians prescribed," says Osenbaugh.

-- Make a list of all your prescriptions. Check to see what you are currently paying out-of-pocket in the way of prescription co-pays and other expenses. -- Select your top five or so Medicare Part D plan options. This can be done online by logging onto www.medicare.gov and clicking the "Compare Medicare Part D Prescription Plans" button. Many pharmacies and some senior centers also provide assistance. -- Review the "formulary" sections of Part D plans and determine whether the medications you take are listed. Check for prior authorization and other provisions that could force you to try other drugs before being approved for the one your physician originally prescribed. -- Review the plan co-pay for each of your medications. If this is a medication you take frequently, selecting a plan with a lower co-pay for that specific drug could save hundreds of dollars next year.

SOURCE Steve Osenbaugh, Independent Retail Pharmacist
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