The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced late July that, for the second consecutive year, Medicare Part D prescription drug premiums will drop in 2019. During an era when healthcare costs are steadily rising, Part D costs will shrink $1.09 to $32.50 starting in January.

Recent action taken by the Trump administration to make prescription drugs more competitive has allowed costs for life-saving and everyday medications to plummet. This competition creates a win-win for patients that need affordable medicines.

This news also makes fall enrollment more important than ever for new Medicare patients and those opting to change certain areas of coverage.

Changes and Coming Changes to Part D

People covered by a Part D plan will probably not notice any difference, but changes already made, and coming changes announced by the Trump administration will increase competition, limit pricing power of monopolies, and require drug companies to disclose drug pricing.

Other changes announced by CMS include:

  • Decreasing the maximum out-of-pocket costs paid by lower income beneficiaries for certain ‘tech’ medicines, also known as biosimilars.
  • Approving the substitution of generic drugs in plans using formularies, allowing persons to receive care year-round without needing to alter medication.
  • Giving beneficiaries the same discounts that hospitals participating in 340B receive.

Update Your Part D Plan During the Fall Annual Enrollment Period

To benefit from the changes CMS announced, new enrollees and current members who wish to change all or part of their Medicare coverage have from October 15, 2018 until December 7, 2018.

Throughout this enrollment period, you may elect to change Part D prescription drug plans, and can also sign up for a Medicare Advantage plan, a critical move if you are not going to carry a Medicare supplement plan. . You can also opt to remain in their traditional Medicare plans.

As we get closer to the 2018 enrollment period, we will get access to actual rates from the various Part D providers.

What is Medicare Part D?

Under the Medicare Modernization Act, Medicare Part D was designed to help beneficiaries pay for prescription drugs by paying premiums through insurers. Part D covers self-administered medications, while professionally administered drugs are automatically covered under Part B.

One attractive component of Part D is the low-income subsidy which kicks in when beneficiaries earn below 150% of Federal poverty level. This subsidy pays all or part of the Part D monthly premium, all co-pays and associated deductibles. Also, Part D plans are based on formularies, meaning some drugs will still be available at no cost to beneficiary, based on what Part D determined they’d pay.

Medicare costs in 2018 started to reflect the proactivity of CMS and their efforts and make drugs more affordable. 2019 will see even more changes than already enacted, according to CMS.

The hard work and devotion CMS has put into making Medicare Part D better for beneficiaries and everyone involved is kind of extraordinary in this time of bureaucratic sloth. Remember, enrollment will end on December 7, 2018, so make sure to reach out to your personal benefits manager (PBM) with questions.

How to Save Money on your Prescription Drugs

If you are on Medicare, make sure you have a Part D prescription drug plan, or a Medicare Advantage plan with Part D included (MAPD).

If you already have a Part D plan, you may want to have us review options and see if there is a less expensive plan that might make sense, once open enrollment gets here on October 15th.

You can reach MediGap Advisors today at 800-913-3416 to speak with one of our expert Personal Benefits Managers.

Wiley Long is founder and president of Medigap Advisors, and is passionate about helping people navigate the confusing waters of Medicare. He is the author of The Medicare Playbook: Designing Your Successful Health Coverage Strategy, a clear and simple explanation so you can make the most of your Medicare coverage.