Deadlines for insurance enrollment nearing


Takyla W. Smith


Special to the Telegram

Monday, December 3, 2018

A few insurance enrollment deadlines are coming up quickly.

The annual enrollment period for individual health insurance ends on Dec. 15. For people receiving Medicare benefits, the enrollment period for a prescription drug plan ends even sooner, on Dec. 7.

Medicare Part D plans are vital for seniors to consider — a delay in enrollment could result in a penalty. Choosing the best plan for your prescriptions and pharmacy needs can make a big difference in the limited budgets of today’s seniors.

The Medicare benefit Part D was created in 2003 and was billed as a new insurance product (prescription drug–only plans) and a new market. Fifteen years later, Part D is widely regarded as a success, providing drug coverage to 42.5 million Medicare beneficiaries and substantially reducing out-of-pocket drug expenditures among enrollees.

Many of the statutory and regulatory provisions governing Part D have remained unchanged since its inception, including its reliance on private plans to negotiate drug prices with manufacturers instead of allowing direct negotiation by the government. There are over 20 plans to choose from in the Twin Counties.

Whether you are new to Medicare or a past enrollee, reviewing your expected prescription needs and comparing the expected costs is extremely important.

Many of my clients immediately want to compare the premiums, but it’s also important to review the coverage offered. If a prescription used to treat your chronic illness isn’t covered with a reasonable co-payment, the difference could quickly outpace any savings you may have had with a lower premium.

Also important to note, if your Medicare D plan covered your prescriptions last year, you should not assume the same plan will cover the same drugs next year. Sometimes there are small changes that make a big difference to your needs and bottom line. If you are currently enrolled in a Plan D, you would have received an Annual Notice of Change at the end of September.

Some things you’ll want to consider when choosing a Medicare Part D plan:

■ The prescriptions you currently are taking are covered

■ Copayments

■ Preferred pharmacy

■ Coverage gaps

■ Premiums

My office offers no cost consultations to help you find the best Medicare Part D plan. There are also nonprofit organizations that will help you, and some pharmacies will offer to help. Try to find a licensed qualified agent to assist you — they will be able to quickly whittle the list of plans down to a few that will benefit you the most.

It’s hard navigating the Medicare market and many seniors can be overwhelmed by all the choices, rules, deadlines and stack of mail!

Don’t delay. Make your plans today for choosing a Medicare D plan.

Takyla W. Smith, owner of Key Insurance Solutions, is a licensed medical insurance and Medicare Supplement expert who has worked for over 18 years in the Twin Counties helping residents choose their insurance products.