Medicare confusion costs seniors money

Investigation finds drug costs vary widely for Medicare recipients

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SAN ANTONIO – Drug costs vary significantly, even for Medicare recipients, possibly costing seniors hundreds or even thousands of dollars, according to a Consumer Reports investigation. 

Consumer Reports looked at six cities, including Dallas, where they found a person enrolled in a low-cost $100 deductible Medicare Part D plan would end up paying an annual cost of $1592 dollars. But, another plan with a $415 deductible would have a total annual cost of $574.  They found stark differences in all six cities.

“And worse, even small mistakes during the sign-up process could cost a consumer a tremendous amount of money,” said Consumer Reports’ Lisa Gill.

Why? Last year, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid  Services gave insurers more flexibility when designing prescription drug plans. The change was supposed to give consumers more options. Instead, the plans ended up being complex, making comparison shopping difficult.

“The Medicare.gov plan finder tool is very difficult, not only to use, but also to compare plans against one another,” Gill said.

Consumer Reports also found the price of drugs can differ dramatically among drug stores. In Denver, the total cost  of five generic drugs at Walgreens was $1,687 through a Silver Script  plan. At a nearby independent pharmacy, the same five drugs with the same plan would cost $688.

For consumers who cannot afford their medications, Consumer Reports suggests:

  • Try not using your insurance. Instead, contact various pharmacies and ask for their lowest cash price.
  • Use services such as www.GoodRX.com and www.Blinkhealth.com  for discounts.
  • File an appeal with your insurance company.
  • Ask the manufacturer of branded medications if they offer discount programs.

About the Author:

As a consumer reporter, Marilyn is all about helping people stay safe and save a buck. Since coming to KSAT in 1985, she’s covered everything from crime to politics, winning awards for her coverage of the Mexican Mafia, Oklahoma tornadoes, children’s transplants, an investigation into voting irregularities and even a hit-and-run Santa Claus.