For the most part the Medicare Part D drug program has been beneficial for people who would otherwise not be able to afford the high cost of medications.
Health care reform legislation means that Medicare Part D formulary changes that took place in 2012 may cost you.
Legislation that became effective January 1 2011 required that companies that manufacture brand-name prescription drugs give a discount on those drugs to Medicare.
If companies do not agree to give Medicare a discount those drugs will no longer be paid for by Medicare.
This means that medications once included in Part D formularies may not be included due to this reform. Changing to another plan to get these drugs will not be an option.
If a discount is not offered to Medicare none of the Part D plans or Medicare Advantage plans with Part D included will include the drugs.
What if my drugs are not covered by Part D?
If Medicare formulary changes affect your ability to obtain certain medications through your Part D or Medicare Advantage plan you do have a couple options.
The first option is to pay for the medications out-of-pocket. Certainly not a great option for seniors on a fixed income. But those people with the means to pay out-of-pocket have that choice. That option will not include any discounts due to being enrolled in a Part D or Advantage plan that includes drug coverage.
If individuals continue to pay for those drug on their own the costs will not count toward the Medicare Part D coverage out-of-pocket spending. This means if you are in the donut hole you can’t count any of the expenses toward qualifying you to reach catastrophic coverage cost-sharing.
If a drug maker does not agree to give Medicare a discount and their drugs are also made by another manufacturer the pharmacy will change your prescription to the manufacturer who agreed to the discount. If this happens you will continue to receive your medications.
Another option is to speak with your doctor to find out if another medication that is included in your plan’s formulary will work for you. Plans are required to notify members of any formulary changes through a notice called the Annual Notice of Change. With this advance knowledge you can meet with your doctor prior to the changes taking effect.
It’s best to be proactive to avoid any surprises. Here a couple suggestions to help you be prepared:
- Watch your mail for any notifications that will effect your plan’s formulary.
- If you are taking medications that will not be covered speak with your pharmacist to see if the drug is manufactured by another company.
- If no other manufacturer makes the drug then make an appointment with your doctor to discuss any other drugs that may work for you.
- Worst case scenario is to pay for the drug out-of-pocket.
In the short term it would seem that Medicare Part D formulary changes were enacted to punish those on Medicare. But don’t forget that the vast majority of drug manufacturers are on board with giving Medicare a discount.
My guess is that Medicare has probably been paying top dollar to many drug makers all along. If those that did not agree to the discounts find that they are losing sales and effecting profits perhaps they will re-think their position.