Be Very Careful When Choosing Your Medicare Part D Plan October 30, 2017 09:55

  • The average monthly 2018 premium for a standalone drug plan will be 9 percent higher.
  • Drug prices can vary from to plan to plan by as much as hundreds of dollars monthly.

As prescription drug prices continue their upward climb, Medicare beneficiaries should pay close attention to the coverage they choose during open enrollment.

During this window, which lasts through Dec. 7, you can choose drug coverage (Part D) either as a standalone plan that serves as a supplement to original Medicare (Parts A and B) or as part of a Medicare Advantage Plan (Part C).

Either way, experts say that while you should ensure that any medications you take are covered, don't stop your search at the first choice meeting that basic minimum.

    "It's really important to compare plans, because they can be very different in pricing and the pharmacies included," said Matt Chancey, a certified financial planner based in Orlando.

    Americans spent $457 billion on prescription drugs in 2015, according to recent data from AARP. With Medicare prohibited by law from negotiating drug prices, retirees — whose budgets often already are often stretched thin — face differences in drug prices from plan to plan that can reach hundreds of dollars.

    For instance, the Senior Citizens League compared the prices of the top 10 most-prescribed drugs among 23 prescription plans available in one ZIP code.

    "The average difference between high and low prices on that particular list was $593 per month," said Mary Johnson, senior policy analyst for the advocacy group.

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