Medicare.gov makes drug plan costs clear

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has made the selection of Part D drug plan options more transparent for beneficiaries by personalizing the information on its Web site about coverage and costs for 2007.

The enhancements to the Web site are aimed at those who want to change their Medicare prescription drug coverage. Beneficiaries can find the information about drug plans before open enrollment begins Nov. 15.

The Medicare Prescription Drug Plan Finder allows users to compare their current drug plan to other coverage options for 2007 that may be a good fit. People using the Web tool will find plans offering lower premiums, price discounts that are larger on average than those available in 2006, coverage of more drugs and less utilization management. Users will also find more plans offering coverage in the gap for both generics and brand-name drugs, said CMS administrator Mark McClellan.

'If you want to consider other options, we have enhanced the tools that make it easier to get the coverage that's right for you,' he said in a statement.

The drug plan finder has a cleaner look, increased usability and reduced page scrolling. It also has a monthly cost estimator, which, he said, is a personalized chart illustrating 12 months of expected drug spending for each plan.

New features help users compare plans based on price and benefit structure, estimate how their monthly costs may vary over the course of the year, and print clear reports they can refer to later. Users can focus on the plan features that they find most important, such as premiums, formularies or the availability of coverage to bridge Medicare gaps.

The application can sort plans based on estimated annual costs or narrow the search based on the particular features that consumers find most important to them.

As part of an ongoing analysis of overall savings on drug costs, CMS found that, for the commonly used drugs that CMS has been tracking since the drug benefit began, savings will average 53 percent compared to not having coverage, up to a maximum of 68 percent through the lowest-cost plans available. In addition, as a result of strong competition, a broader range of plans provide large savings on any particular set of drugs.

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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