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Latest news and updates about the Medicare and pharmacy industries.

What Pharmacists Should Know Before Medicare Open Enrollment

Posted on September 23, 2020 by Amplicare Team


This blog post was originally published on September 4, 2019 and updated on September 23, 2020.

The Medicare Open Enrollment period is a critical time for patients and pharmacists alike. As more Baby Boomers become eligible for Medicare, the beneficiary population is expected to increase from over 59 million beneficiaries today to over 80 million beneficiaries by 2030. Now more than ever, pharmacists must take an active role during Open Enrollment by offering services that help patients understand their plan options. Equipping yourself with the right knowledge could mean a tremendous amount of 

money saved for both your pharmacy and patients. As you plan to help your patients with navigating their options for the coming year, here are a few things to know: 

Why You Should Compare Plans: 

Patients are often overwhelmed by the process of choosing a Medicare plan as drug coverages vary across plans. Studies have shown that while seniors appreciate having a variety of plans to choose from, they don’t feel confident in their ability to do so and want the selection process to be easier. Because of this, patients tend to stay on their current plan despite changes in coverage, which often leaves them paying more than they should. In fact, a 2017 study found that about 90% of Medicare beneficiaries are not on the most cost-effective plan for their medications. 

It’s important to articulate to your Medicare patients that the best plan option this year may not be the best one for them next year. These patients with a limited understanding of Medicare plans can benefit greatly from plan comparisons. Studies show that Medicare beneficiaries could save on average $300 a year just by switching to the lowest cost Part D plan that covers their medications. In addition to helping patients explore their plan options, switch to a plan that best fits their drug regimen, and save money, plan comparisons are a good opportunity for you to build stronger relationships with your patients, increase retention, and drive growth. Plan comparisons also allow you to evaluate which plans are hurting your business through low reimbursements and DIR fees. 

Who Your Medicare Patients Are:

This may seem obvious, but it is important to know which patients are already on Medicare plans. With a high volume of patients at your pharmacy, it can be difficult to know who exactly to reach out to during Open Enrollment. But having this information will help you target your communications so your outreach to patients is relevant based on their situation. Amplicare provides an Open Enrollment report which shows the plan comparisons you’ve performed in the past so you can better track the performance of your current patients. Amplicare integrates with your pharmacy system and imports all patient data, so you can easily create customized handouts for each patient showing their co-pay on each drug, premium costs, deductible costs, total out-of-pocket cost for the year, and which phase of coverage they are on each month. As this can give your pharmacy a competitive edge, it is in your best interest to develop a system to target these patients during Open Enrollment.

Who Your Newly Eligible Medicare Patients Are:

Ten thousand people become Medicare eligible every day. While newly eligible patients have a seven-month window to enroll in Medicare Part D, it’s important to proactively reach out to them early on. To help streamline this process, Amplicare identifies which of your patients are soon approaching their 65th birthday and provides tools for you to reach out and invite them in for a free plan comparison. Offering this service helps patients better understand their options and increases the chances of your patient becoming a loyal customer — patients are 30% more likely to stay with a pharmacy that performs a plan comparison for them. 

Changes to Medicare Plans for the Coming Year:

Each year, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) updates rules and regulations for Original Medicare and Medicare Advantage plans. These updates affect the services that plans offer beneficiaries, making it important to stay well-informed on what coverage options may be available in the new year. For instance, CMS has added more flexibility to Medicare Advantage programs in recent years, allowing them to offer options such as increased telehealth access. The agency has also made changes that target opioid use and patients with chronic conditions. On the financial front, the donut hole for generic drugs closed in 2020, following the elimination of the donut hole for brand-name drugs in 2019. Enrollees in standard Part D plans now pay 25% of the cost of their drugs up to the catastrophic coverage threshold.

Reimbursements for Each Plan and Associated DIR Fees:

Knowing the estimated annual cost of various plan options, including the separate costs for premiums, deductibles, and co-pays, can help inform your patients which plan is best for them when doing a plan comparison. By knowing the reimbursements you can expect on each plan, as well as any associated DIR fees, you are able to highlight opportunities that save both the patient and your pharmacy money. Looking into these win-win opportunities is the best way that your pharmacy can take control of low reimbursements, avoid being taken advantage of by insurance companies, and thrive.

Which Plans Have Restrictions in Place:

The ability to identify any restrictions can save you and your patient headaches later on when they come in to fill their prescriptions. Patients will want to know which plans cover all their drugs or require prior authorization or step therapy for certain drugs.

It’s also important to note that Medicare Advantage plans have limited doctor networks, meaning that not all plans will allow the patient to see certain doctors. If a plan has changed a patient’s provider network for the new year, they can switch to a plan that will include their current doctors during Open Enrollment, lowering their medical costs. Amplicare’s Doctor Lookup feature helps you confirm the doctor network status for any Medicare Advantage plan your patients may be considering. Network restrictions will be listed in Amplicare if any of your patient’s doctors listed on their profile aren’t in-network. 

Formulary Changes:

Formularies change from year to year. While patients may be content with their plans, it’s still important for them to reevaluate their options during Open Enrollment to account for changing formularies and costs. Customers may be unaware, for example, about how a plan’s formulary changes will affect their out-of-pocket expenses. By knowing what the major changes are, you can look into plan restrictions for different medications and find alternatives at the click of a button with Amplicare’s Formulary Lookup tool. Help patients find adequate alternative medications more suitable for their budget and increase their adherence and your revenue.

Plan comparisons not only help your patients save money, but also ensure that you and your pharmacy staff are aware of the changes in Medicare plans. Amplicare equips pharmacists with resources that help analyze patients’ plans and provide transparency by showing each plan’s reimbursements and DIR fees. Using our unique tools, pharmacists like you will be able to make the most of the 2020 Open Enrollment period.

To learn more about how Amplicare can help you have a successful Open Enrollment period, download the Ultimate Guide for Medicare Annual Enrollment for Pharmacies or schedule a consultation with us 

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