Thousands of Medicare Advantage plan members in California are receiving letters that their health plans are closing from carriers such as Anthem Blue Cross and Health Net. Some of the health insurance companies will be leaving some counties completely while others will be offering new Medicare Advantage (MA) plans to their members. Regardless of the reasons, the plan closure triggers a Special Enrollment Period for Medicare beneficiaries to select a new plan offered in their county.
Part D Prescription Plans
Posts on Medicare Part D Prescription Drug plans included in Medicare Advantage or stand alone PDP with Original Medicare and Supplement.
Medicare Advantage plans have been encouraged by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to include $0 copay prescription costs for medications that work to reduce heart attacks and strokes in the plans for 2014. Some plans will be including $0 copay drugs that fight high cholesterol and high blood pressure.
Not too long ago the talk in conservative circles was how the cuts to Medicare Advantage plans under the Affordable Care Act would hurt seniors. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has announced that more seniors now have access to higher quality Medicare Advantage plans as there has been a 28% increase in plans receiving four or more quality star ratings for the 2014 open enrollment period beginning on October 15th.
The Affordable Care Act set in motion a series of reforms to slowly close the coverage gap or “donut hole” that Part D members faced after they met their initial coverage dollar amount. Pharmaceutical manufacturers that wanted their Brand name drugs covered in the gap had to sign an agreement with Medicare to cover 50% of the cost of the drug. Medicare has had to assess civil monetary penalties on many companies that failed to cover the discount.
With only one manufacturer of the Shingles Vaccine, Zostavax from Merck, there are no generic prices on the market. The retail price for Zostavax at the local pharmacies I surveyed is fairly consistent across the board. Lower prices can be found under different Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Plans, but even with insurance, there can be a spread of $115 to $170 difference in the cost.
CMS cited numerous failures on the part of SmartD Rx to properly handle member’s prescription drug and enrollment transactions.
The larger point of Anthem’s discussion is that rising health care costs have several roots. There is no one culprit that is driving costs.
On January 15th, Medicare imposed an immediate sanction on SilverScripts Part D Prescription drug plans, available through CVS/Caremark, from marketing or selling any new drug plans because of massive failures to properly handle prescription drug claims of new members.