Choosing Wisely: Helping Seniors Select the Right Medicare Plan

Pharmacy Times, Volume 0, 0

Many seniors looking for a Medicare Part D prescription plan turn to pharmacists for advice?how do some chains help them to choose the right plan?

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

During open enrollment, manyseniors looking for a MedicarePart D prescription plan tomeet their medication needs andbudgets turn to their trusted pharmaciststo help them make the right decision.With a large population of patientsseeking assistance, how dosome of the chains help them choosethe right plan?

Although many Medicare-eligiblepatients may stay with their currentcoverage, the Centers for Medicare &Medicaid Services (CMS) predicted that90% of current Medicare Part D beneficiarieswould have the option ofenrolling in a different plan for 2008 ata lower cost than what they are currentlypaying. Our survey of some ofthe top chains revealed many in-storeand Web-based solutions to this challengeof educating patients.

Walgreens: Similar to its effort inprevious years to help patients selectthe right Medicare Part D program,Walgreens provides individualizedreports to seniors who visit their localpharmacy. The report is generated inthe store and is based on what medicationseach patient is taking. Theresult is a valuable tool to help enrolleesselect the right plan based ontheir situations.

Albertsons/SUPERVALU: SUPERVALUPharmacies has taken on thechallenge of providing assistance toMedicare Part D patients by educatingstaff about Medicare Part D and trainingpharmacists to assist patients withaccessing official Medicare and CMSDrug Plan Finder Web sites. The chainalso provides patients with the government's800 number for Medicare informationas well as a SUPERVALU brochurethat provides a general descriptionof Medicare Part D.

Longs: Longs Drugs offers a toll-freeline for patients to order a free reportwith information to help them decideon the right Part D plan. This fact sheetalso is available in the store. In fact, asa store promotion, November wasMedicare Drug Benefit Awarenessmonth at Longs in an effort to encouragepatients to look into their benefitplans and ask questions of pharmacistswho could help patients understandhow the program works.

Kerr Drug: On the Kerr Drug Website, a link to the Medicare site directspatients to the government Web siteand all the information provided onPart D plans.

CVS: CVS implemented a customizedonline resource—CVS PlanComparison Tool—on the RxNet homepage under the link, 2008 MedicarePrescription Plan Benefit. In addition tohelping patients choose the right planfor them, it provides a list of all theplans available based on geographiclocation. The patient fills out an informationrequest form, and the pharmacistenters in the patient information,following the screen prompts. Oncethe comparison is complete, the pharmacistprints a copy for the patient andexplains the plan selection process.The pharmacist can also refer to informationprovided on RxNet for specifictalking points when counselingenrollees.

Rite Aid: This chain offers patients afree guide detailing Medicare prescriptionoptions. Rite Aid pharmacists alsoare trained in Medicare Part D, so theycan answer questions. In addition, RiteAid has a Web site, www.riteaid.com/medicareadvisor, that lets patientscompare prices and plans for theirarea. The Web site has details on eachplan, deadlines, side-by-side comparisons,and for some plans, a link toonline enrollment. Rite Aid also hasestablished a partnership with AARP/United Healthcare, Aetna, and Well-Point to produce in-store literature onthe different plans. This guide offersstep-by-step instructions for selectingthe plan to best suit patients' variousprescription needs.