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Best Medicare Part D plans 2020: find the right prescription drugs costs coverage for you

Best Medicare Part D plans 2020: find the right prescription drugs costs coverage for you
(Image credit: Walgreens)
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There are few things more important than your health. That's why Assurance is designed to find the best Medicare Part D insurance plans designed for you and your family. Start your search for a plan at Assurance today.

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If you’re eligible for Medicare, the best Medicare Part D plan providers, including the likes of Humana Medicare Rx, Cigna-HealthSpring and AARP, could help you secure coverage for your ongoing prescription drugs costs. This is especially important considering how expensive some medicines can be. Coverage is also vital if you believe your prescription drug costs might increase in the future and you think you may struggle to afford copayments on the plan you’re on now.

As with the best health insurance companies, there’s a wide range of providers to pick from when it comes to finding the best Medicare Part D plan for your needs, including WellCare, SilverScript and MyHumana. Selecting suitable coverage depends on a variety of factors, including which medicines you need, how much they cost, the manufacturer, and where the medicines are sourced from. 

The best Medicare Part D plans, often referred to as Medicare prescription drug plans, are used to supplement Medicare coverage. Why? Because most of those plans don’t include prescription medicine costs as standard. 

To make coverage as affordable as possible, Medicare offers four distinct tiers: Medicare Part D Tier 1 covers the majority of generic prescription drugs; Tier 2 applies to preferred, brand-name medicine; Tier 3 covers non-preferred, brand-name prescription drugs; and Speciality Tier (4) relates to high-cost prescription drugs with the highest copays.

Out-of-pocket costs on certain medicines can be cripplingly high, so if you don’t have coverage (or the plan you’re enrolled in doesn’t cover what you need), enrolling in one of the best Medicare Part D plans is worth considering.

To empower your decision, we’ve reviewed the top providers of Medicare prescription drug costs plans in America today, listing their strengths and weaknesses to help you easily identify the best Medicare Part D plan provider for your coverage needs.

1. Cigna-HealthSpring: Best Medicare Part D Plan overall

Best Medicare Part D plans: Cigna-HealthSpring Medicare Rx

(Image credit: Cigna)

Cigna-HealthSpring Medicare Rx

Our top pick for the best Medicare Part D plan delivers great all round service

Plans: Three | Tier 1 free co-pay: No | Network: 63,000 pharmacies | Medications: Over 3,000

Good choice of plans
Excellent additional benefits 
Large pharmacy network
Co-pay charge even for Tier 1 drugs

Cigna-HealthSpring is a well-priced and reliable option, making it our top pick in this best Medicare Part D plans. It has a decent selection of options that span a range of requirements for coverage, a large preferred pharmacy network and reasonable premiums. 

The Healthy Rewards Program offers a selection of discounts, including at some 9,000 fitness centers nationwide, vision, hearing and nutrition programs plus there are discounts for acupuncture, massage and chiropractic services.

Plans don't offer a $0 co-pay after deductible, like a lot of the competition does for Tier 1 drugs. But the advantage here is a whopping 63,000 preferred network pharmacies nationally. Also the access to over 3,000 medications including most of the common medications for people on Medicare, make this very appealing.

Excellent premiums, deductibles and co-pay options mean there is something for everyone.

2. AARP Medicare Rx: Well-suited to seniors

Best Medicare Part D plans: AARP Medicare Rx

(Image credit: AARP)

AARP Medicare Rx

The best Medicare Part D plan option for seniors

Plans: Three | Tier 1 free co-pay: Yes | Network: Walgreens and Duane Reed | Medications: Thousands

Backing of the AARP and United HealthCare
Good range of options
Easy quote process
Best prices only if using Walgreens
Some options only available to AARP members 

AARP Medicare Rx, with services provided by United Healthcare, is an excellent all-round provider of Medicare Part D plans and is the only range of plans backed by AARP. This is the best Medicare Part D plan option for seniors as it mixes low co-pays with competitive premiums and has a network of preferred providers. These include Walgreens and Duane Reed, making this widely accessible. The plan is available nationwide and the quote process is very straightforward.

Plans range from the AARP Medicare Rx Saver Plus at $31.30 per month, the AARP Medicare Rx Walgreens at $39.40 and the AARP Medicare Rx Preferred plan as the most comprehensive for $81.80.  

3. Humana Medicare Rx: Best Medicare Part D Plan for home delivery

Best Medicare Part D plans: Humana Medicare Rx

(Image credit: Humana)

Humana Medicare Rx

If mail delivery of drugs is important to you, try this Medicare Part D plan

Plans: Three | Tier 1 free co-pay: Yes | Network: Walmart and Sam's Club | Medications: Thousands

Good range of plans 
Excellent mail delivery service 
$0 deductible on many generic drugs
High deductible on specialist drugs

Humana Medicare Rx offers a good range of Medicare Part D plans with options for most types of customer. There are particularly good savings to be had for those who can take advantage of the partnership with Walmart, and for those that are happy to sign up for the mail delivery service. The three MyHumana plans are clearly described, and potential customers should find it easy to disseminate the information and get a quote on their website. 

When it comes to Humana Medicare, prices range from co-pays as low as $0 after deductible for Tier 1. There are over 5,200 Walmarts that stock, plus you have access to Walmart Neighbourhood and Sam's Club pharmacies. More than 1,500 generics are included on the top tier plan’s list of covered drugs. 

4. SilverScript: Best Medicare Part D plan for 24/7 advice

Best Medicare Part D plans: SilverScript Medicare Rx

(Image credit: SilverScript)

SilverScript Medicare Rx

They may offer just two Medicare Part D plans, but they are very appealing

Plans: Two | Tier 1 free co-pay: Yes | Network: 65,000 phamracies | Medications: Thousands

Excellent customer service 
$0 co-pay for basic drugs 
Only two plans available

SilverScript is a Medicare Part D plan specialist, and this, together with being part of the CVS family of companies, puts it in good stead to assist potential customers with their initial enquiries. Although the company only offers two plans (so not as many as some other competitors), the plans are different enough to appeal to most customers, and is why we have featured it in our best Medicare Part D plans guide.

SilverScript should appeal to those with basic, low-level medical requirements, through to those who take regular multiple medications. The 24/7 customer service and a range of online tools to help with medication organization is also a good benefit to customers. 

5. WellCare Health Plans Medicare: Good choice of plans

Best Medicare Part D plans: WellCare Health Plans Medicare

(Image credit: WellCare)

WellCare Health Plans Medicare

This is the best Medicare Part D provider for a variety of plans

Plans: Six | Tier 1 free co-pay: No | Network: 407,000 phamracies | Medications: Thousands

Six plans available  
Good expert advice 
Not many additional benefits

WellCare Health is a government-sponsored healthcare plan specialist, and so is a great resource for weighing up which Medicare Part D plan might be suitable for any potential customer. 

Since these types of plan are definitely the focus, the customer service agents are equipped to give detailed and specialist knowledge, putting the company in a relatively good position compared to many of the peers in the marketplace. 

WellCare has an excellent spectrum of available plans, ranging from very affordable entry-level, basic plans to good value, comprehensive plans for customers with extensive medication needs. Pricing is also nicely varied meaning there should be something for everyone. 

How much do the best Medicare Part D Plans cost?

According to MyMedicareMatters.org, the national average monthly premium for a Part D plan is $33.19. However, the cost varies depending on the plan you choose and the area where you live. In addition, to really determine the best plan for you, you need to consider the cost of the drugs you take plus the deductible and premium. 

You shouldn’t necessarily choose a plan based on the lowest available premium without first determining how the plan affects your annual drug costs, as it’s important to remember that Part D plans usually don’t begin to cover prescription drug costs until you’ve paid the out-of-pocket deductible. So, if a low premium plan has a high deductible, it can potentially cost you more per year than a higher premium.

To find the most affordable plan, you need to start by making a list of the prescriptions you take and the monthly cost without insurance. Then calculate the annual cost of the drugs. This might require consulting with your pharmacy or past receipts. Once you know how much your drugs cost, you can choose a plan with a deductible and a monthly premium that costs you the least.

It’s also critical to consider the co-pay tier categorizations of the drugs you take. Medicare Part D plans will always emphasize or encourage you to take the tier 1 generic drugs, and most cover these at a much lower co-pay. But if you have some drugs that are only available on the tier 4 speciality designation, you could end up with a higher co-pay.

How we evaluated the best Medicare Part D plans

While every plan is different, they all share the same cost considerations:

Premium
Similar to other commercial health insurance plans, Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Plans vary with the monthly premiums, depending on the company and the coverage and the prescriptions you need covered. We've seen monthly premiums as low as $12 and we've seen some as high as $100 per month. It all depends on how comprehensive you want or need your plan to be. To help you know what your premium will be, you should collect your medications and list the names, brands and dosage. Most insurance providers will ask you to provide this information when getting a quote for a plan.

Annual Deductible
Some Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Plans offer a low monthly premium with a high deductible, while others do not have a deductible but charge a higher premium. When choosing a Medicare Part D Plan, pay close attention to the benefit of paying a higher monthly premium. In many cases, the difference in savings is not as much as the difference in premium. The coverage of a higher premium plan often provides more comprehensive coverage.

Drug Tier
Depending on your budget, current medications, and location, you can search among a vast list of plans offered by several commercial insurance companies. Most companies offering Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Plans cover medications based on a tier program, and not all medications may be covered. It's important to compile an accurate and complete list of your current medications before enrolling in a Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Plan to find out if they are included under the plan.

Enrollment Period
Similar to other health insurances, you have to pay attention to enrollment periods. With Medicare, you have an initial enrollment period, which is seven-months and includes the three months before you turned 65. After this period, if you haven't enrolled in a plan or if you want to change your plan, you have to wait until the Fall Enrollment period, October 15 to December 7, with effective coverage beginning on January 1st.

The best Medicare Part D plans resources to consult

State Health Insurance Assistance Programs are federally funded, state-managed centers that provide free counseling about Medicare over the phone or in person. The staff and volunteer experts in the programs use the same Plan Finder as you would on your own, but they’ve undergone extensive training and have experience navigating through the challenges these choices present.

“We ask [consumers] questions to try to help them decide,” says Ray Walker, divisional director for the Medicare Assistance Program (a SHIP) at the Oklahoma Insurance Department. “What is the most important thing to you: Having a short drive to the pharmacy? Is mobility an issue for you? [Is the priority] the copay structure for this particular medication?”

Though SHIP counselors are not allowed to recommend one specific plan, by asking these questions and evaluating which plans’ formularies best suit a person’s needs, they’re able to narrow down the choices significantly. Walker estimates that consumers who follow his staff’s advice save an average of $2,100 a year. And since the services are free, you can call your state’s SHIP any time throughout the year, especially during every open enrollment period, when you need to decide whether to keep your current plan or switch to a new one.

“We always recommend SHIPs as a resource for people who want more-personalized help with sorting through their Medicare plan options,” Purvis says.

You can find your state’s SHIP website in this drop-down menu.

For laser-focused advice: licensed insurance agents

Brokers have a lot of training and expertise under their belt, and a good one will be able to spend quality time looking at your individual needs at no cost to you. Be aware, though, aware that most agents work on commission and are in business to sell plans for the companies that will be paying them. One way to make sure you’re dealing with someone who has your best interests in mind is to go to an agent who represents a number of insurance companies.

“Ask them: ‘Do you sell all the plans that are available, or do you only represent certain companies?’” Walker advises.

For unbiased hand-holding: Flat-fee Medicare consultants

“It makes sense to me,” is how Diane Omdahl describes her Medicare expertise and resultant understanding of the enrollment process. Omdahl, cofounder and president of 65 Incorporated, is a registered nurse and directed a skilled nursing facility before getting into the Medicare advice business. Services such as 65 Incorporated, Allsup Medicare Advisor, Health Care Navigation and others you can find in your area charge a fee for one-on-one consulting. 

It’s not cheap; 65 Incorporated charges $399 to walk you through your initial enrollment. The advantage is that because these consultants do not work on commission, they have no ulterior motive to steer you to a particular company or a more expensive product.

Considering how much you might have to pay out of pocket for an uncovered medication if you choose the wrong plan, it may be worth your time – and possibly some of your money – to get a helping hand with the process.

There are few things more important than your health. That's why Assurance is designed to find the best Medicare Part D insurance plans for you and your family. Start your search for a plan at Assurance today.

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