Trying to pick the best Medicare prescription drug plan for an individual beneficiary can be an overwhelming task, since there are so many plans to choose from, and various factors you need to consider.
Fortunately, CMS (the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services) has developed a very helpful online "planfinder" tool which you can access at www.medicare.gov -- you can run a general or personalized search of all the drug plans offered in your service area, and obtain detailed information about plan formularies (including utlization requirements), co-pays and monthly premiums, network pharmacies and more. If you want to get more information about a specific Part D plan, planfinder can link you to that plan's website.
If you are new to planfinder, you may want to view the online demonstration on the various planfinder functions, which you can usually find on Medicare's home page. In 2010, prior to the enrollment period for 2011, CMS made major changes in the Planfinder tool, which are summarized in this PowerPoint presentation created by CMS.
Here are Planfinder Tips issued by CMS in November 2010.
Here is a link to the new CMS Medicare Plan Finder Training Website, a list of Plan Finder test scenarios and a timeline for the planned updates to the Plan Finder for the 2011 Enrollment period that began Nov. 15, 2010.
You can even use the planfinder tool to enroll in a Part D plan if you want. However, it's probably best to doublecheck first on the Part D plan's website or call the plan directly to make sure their information matches what you found in planfinder. (Especially at the start of the new annual open enrollment period, planfinder may not be completely up-to-date and occasionally you may find slight glitches or discrepancies.)
The Health Assistance Partnership has produced a helpful tutorial on using PlanFinder monthly cost estimates to pick the most affordable plan. Also see this article from the Medicare Rights Center on how to select a Part D plan.
Generally, the top plan listed by PlanFinder will be the cheapest one for an individual beneficiary. However, there are some factors that PlanFinder does not consider:
This article was authored by the Empire Justice Center.