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2011 Medicare Part D Choices Require Research Says Firm

Avalere Health, a healthcare policy research firm, says that Medicare beneficiaries must do some research before making their Medicare Part D plan election for 2011.  The company says that significant changes await some enrollees, even if they elect the same Part D provider they had in 2010.  According to the company, many Medicare Part D providers have changed their formularies and co-pay costs, meaning that some drugs that were covered in 2010 may not be covered in 2011.

One of the more noticeable changes may be in the way providers structure co-pays.  According to Avalere Health, more providers are structuring their Part D plans with five or more tiers, which will allow providers to charge different co-pays for drugs in different plan tiers.  The number of tiered plans has risen from 27% in 2009 to more than 40% in 2011.  Some plans that already use tiered payment structures have two different tiers for generic drugs.

Another major change for consumers will be in their choice of pharmacy.  Some Part D plans will use preferred pharmacies and will base consumer out-of-pocket costs not only on the prescribed drugs, but also on whether or not prescriptions are filled at a participating pharmacy.  Consumers who use non-plan pharmacies may find themselves paying up to 50% more in out-of-pocket costs for prescription drugs.

More Part D plans are also using pre-authorization and limiting the quantity of medications that can be dispensed at one time, creating an overall higher cost to the consumer for pharmaceuticals in the form of additional co-pays.  The end result of these changes is a net decrease in the number of drugs covered by the top ten prescription drug plans (PDP) for 2011.

Among the top ten plans, the 2011 formularies cover between 50% and 87% of prescription drugs.  To illustrate the potential impact of changes among drug plans, Avalere’s analysis shows that while the AARP’s 2011 formulary covers four popular rheumatoid arthritis drugs with a 33% cost-share, Humana-WalMart’s 2011 formulary covers only two of the four drugs and has a 35% cost-share on the covered formulations. In addition, the cost-share at non-preferred pharmacies is significantly higher.  Enrollees must pay out-of-pocket for drugs not covered by their provider’s formulary. More information about the Avalere Health study can be found at AvalereHealth.net.

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