Minnesota Attorney General's Office
1400 Bremer Tower
445 Minnesota Street
St. Paul, MN 55101
M - F 8 am - 5 pm
Particular Note To Seniors
As a senior you may have specific health care concerns. Maybe the cost of prescription drugs is alarming you. Maybe the Medicare supplement policies you are considering seem confusing. Here are some tips to deal with the cost of prescriptions and your changing health care needs.
The price of prescription drugs can sometimes be overwhelming, particularly if you have a fixed income. You need to take care of your health, but you also need to manage your budget.
Prescription drug costs are affected by lots of factors and can vary greatly from one source to another. Pharmaceutical manufacturers negotiate prices with drug purchasers. Discounts are generally greater for large-volume purchasers such as hospitals, employers or managed care companies. Smaller-volume purchasers, such as individuals, may not have access to such discounts. But there are some things you can do to help reduce your out-of-pocket costs for prescription drugs:
- Ask your doctor if there is a generic equivalent that would be appropriate to treat your health condition.
- Comparison shop. As with any purchase, shop around for the best price.
- If you have health insurance with prescription drug benefits, make sure you understand what your plan covers. In particular, figure out if the health plan's formulary includes the drug prescribed for you.
- Check with your physician to find out if you qualify for any discounts or free medication offered by pharmaceutical companies. If you are a veteran, contact your local Veterans Affairs Office to find out if you qualify for discounts on prescription drugs.
- Ask your doctor how long you will need to take the medication and in what dosage. This way you can just buy what you need. If you must take a drug for a long time, check to see if you can buy the drug in bulk.
- Understand and follow the directions for taking your medications. This will make the drugs most effective and help reduce the risk of side effects. Avoid potential problems by telling your doctor what other drugs you take. Don't discontinue or change the dosage of your medication without your physician's approval.
- 7. If you do not have Medigap or other insurance coverage for prescription drugs, the Senior Drug Program may help. If you qualify, the program helps pay for prescription drugs. Contact your county's social services agency for details. Find out if you meet the income and asset guidelines.
MEDICARE SUPPLEMENT POLICIES
Medigap or Medicare supplement policies can be purchased to help "fill in the gaps" of your Medicare coverage. For example, Medicare does not cover prescription drugs, but supplemental policies are available that do.
In Minnesota there are two standard Medicare supplement policies, "basic" and "extended basic," Seven optional "riders" are available to help cover additional items. As the name implies, "extended basic" policies are more comprehensive than basic policies.
An open enrollment period of six months follows when you enroll in Medicare Part B. During this period you cannot be denied Medicare supplement insurance due to an existing health condition.
Compare plans before you buy. Consider your health needs and the cost of the plans to make the right choice for your health. If you don't understand what is covered, ask questions. Don't feel pressured to buy. If a salesperson stops by your home unannounced, don't feel pressured to let the person into your home. Do business on your own terms. Check your options carefully before making important decisions about your health care coverage.