Choosing Wisely: Helping Seniors Select the Right Medicare Plan

JANUARY 01, 2008
Susan Farley

Ms. Farley is a freelance medical writer based in Wakefield, Rhode Island.

During open enrollment, many seniors looking for a Medicare Part D prescription plan to meet their medication needs and budgets turn to their trusted pharmacists to help them make the right decision. With a large population of patients seeking assistance, how do some of the chains help them choose the right plan?

Although many Medicare-eligible patients may stay with their current coverage, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) predicted that 90% of current Medicare Part D beneficiaries would have the option of enrolling in a different plan for 2008 at a lower cost than what they are currently paying. Our survey of some of the top chains revealed many in-store and Web-based solutions to this challenge of educating patients.

Walgreens: Similar to its effort in previous years to help patients select the right Medicare Part D program, Walgreens provides individualized reports to seniors who visit their local pharmacy. The report is generated in the store and is based on what medications each patient is taking. The result is a valuable tool to help enrollees select the right plan based on their situations.

Albertsons/SUPERVALU: SUPERVALU Pharmacies has taken on the challenge of providing assistance to Medicare Part D patients by educating staff about Medicare Part D and training pharmacists to assist patients with accessing official Medicare and CMS Drug Plan Finder Web sites. The chain also provides patients with the government's 800 number for Medicare information as well as a SUPERVALU brochure that provides a general description of Medicare Part D.

Longs: Longs Drugs offers a toll-free line for patients to order a free report with information to help them decide on the right Part D plan. This fact sheet also is available in the store. In fact, as a store promotion, November was Medicare Drug Benefit Awareness month at Longs in an effort to encourage patients to look into their benefit plans and ask questions of pharmacists who could help patients understand how the program works.

Kerr Drug: On the Kerr Drug Web site, a link to the Medicare site directs patients to the government Web site and all the information provided on Part D plans.

CVS: CVS implemented a customized online resource—CVS Plan Comparison Tool—on the RxNet home page under the link, 2008 Medicare Prescription Plan Benefit. In addition to helping patients choose the right plan for them, it provides a list of all the plans available based on geographic location. The patient fills out an information request form, and the pharmacist enters in the patient information, following the screen prompts. Once the comparison is complete, the pharmacist prints a copy for the patient and explains the plan selection process. The pharmacist can also refer to information provided on RxNet for specific talking points when counseling enrollees.

Rite Aid: This chain offers patients a free guide detailing Medicare prescription options. Rite Aid pharmacists also are trained in Medicare Part D, so they can answer questions. In addition, Rite Aid has a Web site,, that lets patients compare prices and plans for their area. The Web site has details on each plan, deadlines, side-by-side comparisons, and for some plans, a link to online enrollment. Rite Aid also has established a partnership with AARP/United Healthcare, Aetna, and Well-Point to produce in-store literature on the different plans. This guide offers step-by-step instructions for selecting the plan to best suit patients' various prescription needs.

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