Study: Medicare drug plan saves compared to Canada
Buying medicine under the new Medicare drug coverage may end up being cheaper than ordering it from Canada for some people, a study has found. Conducted by the AARP Bulletin, the analysis looked at the least expensive Medicare drug plan in 21 sta...
Buying medicine under the new Medicare drug coverage may end up being cheaper than ordering it from Canada for some people, a study has found.
Conducted by the AARP Bulletin, the analysis looked at the least expensive Medicare drug plan in 21 states for six commonly used medications under the plans' 90-day mail order option. It compared the prices under these Medicare plans with those charged by GlobalDrugsDirect.com, which bills itself as a low-cost Canadian provider. The study took into account the plans' premiums, deductibles and co-payments.
It found that for many Americans, the Medicare plans can be a better deal because beneficiaries are charged only a co-payment for covered drugs, as opposed to paying the full price in Canada.
For instance, in New York, a three-month supply of Lipitor (20 mg) or Fosamax (70 mg) costs $413 each under the least expensive Medicare plan, but $516 from Canada. At an American pharmacy, the price balloons to $1,160 and $780, respectively. Among the drugs surveyed, only Toprol XL (50 mg) wound up costing consistently more under Medicare.
Of course, costs and savings depend on the drugs you take and the plan you pick because each plan covers only certain medications. Most senior citizens have to weigh dozens of insurance plans to determine which is best for them.
"We were really surprised that so many of these Medicare drug plans had lower costs than the Canadians'," said Susan Crowley, executive editor of AARP Bulletin, a monthly newspaper published by the advocacy group. "But this is not true across the board. People still have to do their homework. That's the only way you'll ever know if you've gotten the best deal."
Beneficiaries can get more information about the plans and the drugs covered at Medicare's Web site, www.medicare.gov , or by calling 800-633-4227. Coverage begins Jan. 1, but beneficiaries have until May 15 to sign up without penalty.
Other industry experts said they were not surprised by the survey's results, having heard similar anecdotal reports about particular medications.
"I think that holds up," said Alfred Chiplin Jr., a senior policy attorney at the Center for Medicare Advocacy, a health care rights organization in Washington, D.C.
Many people, however, may not select the cheapest plans and, therefore, may wind up paying a lot more even with the new Medicare coverage, experts said.
"The likelihood of someone picking the least expensive plan is remote," said Robert Hayes, president of the Medicare Rights Center, a national consumer services group based in Manhattan. "Many people are taking a shot in the dark."