The ACA is impacting Medicare in significant ways over the next decade. If you’re enrolled in Medicare or plan to in the next few years, then you should be aware of the differences between today’s Medicare program and the one you used to know. The changes being implemented will impact the plans you’re able to choose from, how much you pay in out-of-pocket and coinsurance costs, and how you experience prescription drug coverage.
Why is the program changing at all? Medicare has been serving the needs of senior citizens since 1965, and over the years, the program has evolved due to administrative changes, federal regulations and other acts that strengthened it for more people. The ACA continues this tradition by implementing some cost-saving measures such as reducing funding to Medicare Part A. Below, we highlight the top five changes to Medicare that you need to know about for 2015.
#1: There are fewer Medicare Part D plans available.
Many of the changes happening to Medicare center on Part D coverage, which is the portion that covers your prescription drug costs. You should know that this year will see fewer options for prescription drug coverage than at any time since the program started. According to Newsmax.com, “The total number of plans nationwide will drop to 1,001, the lowest since Part D began, but most state residents will still have dozens of options.”
Aetna/CVS, AARP MedicareRx Enhanced and SilverScript Basic are three of the top plans that have been cut for 2015. Some companies may opt to narrow down their policies by combining elements of three plans into two, but some insurers may choose just to cut down on their offerings altogether. Regardless of the logistical changes taking place, you will still have several options to choose from when picking a policy that fits your needs.
#2: Your premiums for Part D will most likely go up.
Most beneficiaries will see their premiums increase this year, but the actual percentage varies. In some cases, enrollees will see a price hike of up to 52 percent while some beneficiaries may see an increase of about 11 percent. A few of the top Part D drug plans will actually drop premium rates. Insurance officials recommend that seniors go through policies carefully to determine the actual cost of the plans. Considering factors like premiums, deductibles and coinsurance payments should help enrollees get a better sense of the true cost of coverage.
#3: Part D deductibles have increased.
Medicare Part D deductibles will also increase for most enrollees, which means you’ll have a higher cap to meet before your insurer will pay for prescription drugs. The increase is worth about $10 in most cases, but insurers may increase deductibles even further depending on the type of plan you choose. Fortunately, the ACA provides for better cost assistance while you’re in the Part D coverage gap, discussed below.
#4: You might pay higher copays in Part D.
To pay for some of the more expensive aspects of Medicare, many insurers have increased the copay amounts in Part D plans. Newsmax.com recommends some tips for saving money even if your copay increases. For example, you could request free samples from your doctor for pills that they get for free anyway. Doctors receive about $21,000 worth of free drug samples throughout the year, so check with your provider to see if free samples will cover some of your prescription needs.
Cutting pills in half based on a doubled-up prescription could also be a good way to cut costs in the long run. Of course, buying generic drugs in lieu of their pricier brand name counterparts also saves beneficiaries thousands of dollars over the course of a year. Higher copays may be inconvenient, but there are ways to deal with them.