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(StatePoint) If you signed up for a new Medicare plan during Open Enrollment, it's important to understand how your prescription drug costs may be affected. Even if you did nothing to alter your coverage, some features of your plan may have changed for 2017.
Unfortunately, almost one-in-five Medicare beneficiaries don't have a good understanding of their plan, and a good portion have some misconceptions about copays, according to a recent survey by Walgreens.
Here are three easy steps to help you make the most of your benefits and find potential cost-savings for your prescription medications under your Part D coverage.
When possible, consider using a less expensive prescription drug brand or generic. These alternatives typically carry the same formulas at a reduced cost, saving patients substantially over time.
Verify whether your plan has preferred pharmacies -- which are pharmacies that have an agreement with a Part D plan to charge less than a standard network pharmacy. For example, Walgreens, which is a preferred pharmacy for many of the nation's top plans, can help lower the cost of your copays, even to $0 in the case of Tier 1 generics on certain plans.
"Depending on the design of your plan, coverage, and prescription drugs, you can pay higher copays at one pharmacy in comparison to another if your pharmacy is not in your plan's preferred network! So, choosing the right pharmacy is definitely important," says Mariah Moon, the blogger behind "The Simple Parent," who recently wrote about helping her mother research her options for lowering her drug costs as part of the #PartDAtWalgreens campaign.
"My pharmacist told me that many physicians are willing to write 90-day prescriptions for many of the medications that seniors are often prescribed. This not only saves time by requiring fewer trips to the pharmacy, but also may save copay costs," says Shelley Webb, a registered nurse and founder of "The Intentional Caregiver," who cared for her father in her home for four years and was recently sponsored by Walgreens to share tips about saving on prescription costs with her readers.
Medicare beneficiaries seeking help navigating prescription drug costs can find free resources at walgreens.com/topic/pharmacy/medicarepartd.
If you didn't review your plan before renewing, it's not too late to become a savvy consumer and learn more. Doing so can help you save money.