Medicare Beneficiaires May Struggle with Web Enrollment

Finding a health plan on the Medicare website could be troublesome for some seniors.

Finding a health plan on the Medicare website could be troublesome for some seniors. According to Gina Upchurch, executive director of Senior PharmAssist, a nonprofit group in North Carolina, a plan finder tool on the government’s website is showing higher prices for a prescription filled every 2 or 3 months compared with the same drug bought every month under 2014 drug policies. “You’re buying less and paying more,” she said.

Prescriptions such as eye drops, creams, or inhalers can last for more than a month, yet some insurers cap discounting for prescription drugs other than for 30-day regimens. Dr Upchurch found one plan that charged a beneficiary with a monthly prescription for eye drops $7 a month during the initial coverage period to get the drug, while another person who has a prescription for the drops to be filled every 60 days would pay $51. Another 2 plans she compared charge $40 or $45 for 3 vials of insulin every month in the initial coverage period, and $575 every 2 months.

Fred Riccardi, director of client services at the Medicare Rights Center, says elderly patients should call their insurers to seek out alternative plan options that might reduce costs, such as ordering through the mail order pharmacy. However, Dr Upchurch argues, “People shouldn’t have to run around to different pharmacies” and that “It would be better if Medicare required plans to cover whatever supply a provider prescribes.”

Elderly beneficiaries may encounter additional barriers to affordable healthcare due to their lack of access to the Internet. A study released in September by the Pew Internet & American Life Project found that a disproportionate amount of older Americans do not use the Internet. Kathryn Zickuhr, who wrote the Pew study, found 49% of non-Internet users are older than 65 years.

Around the Web

Strange Pricing Details Can Bedevil Medicare Beneficiaries [Kaiser Health News]

Gap Between Those Who Use Internet and Those Who Don’t is Widening

[The Washington Post]