Use the Medicare Plan Finder to See Your Options - dummies

Use the Medicare Plan Finder to See Your Options

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The Medicare online plan finder is loaded with information and offers several different kinds of searches. Here’s how to navigate the program as quickly as possible to get you to the point when you can begin to compare stand-alone Part D drug plans.

The plan finder is now vastly more user-friendly than when it first went live in October 2005, and many improvements have been made. But its architects do change things from time to time — how can computer techies ever resist tinkering? — and navigating the program may not follow exactly the same steps as indicated.

Still, you should be able to follow along. Medicare also offers an online tutorial video on how to move through the program; you can find it on the landing page that launches the plan finder. But keeping the instructions that follow next to your keyboard is easier.

The “plan results” page is actually the beginning, not the end, of your search, because it shows only the broadest information for each Part D plan. But it does have some nifty features that may be immediately useful to you.

  • Comparing three plans at the same time: Click on up to three of the square boxes that precede the name of each plan to check off those you want to compare and then click on “Compare Plans” at the top of the list. Details of these plans then appear side by side. This device is useful, but it doesn’t give quite the same level of detail as reviewing each plan’s information separately.

  • Changing the order of the plans you see: By default, the plans you see on this page are listed in the order of “lowest estimated annual retail drug cost.” But you can change the order by using the drop-down menu at the head of the list, selecting a different arrangement, and clicking on “Sort.” For example, if you don’t take any drugs and want a low-cost plan just to maintain coverage, select “Lowest Monthly Premium.”

  • Seeing whether any plans have earned the top quality rating: Medicare rates each plan on a scale of one to five stars, which you can see in the column on the right of this page. If a plan in your area earns one of the relatively rare top five-star quality ratings, you see a gold star icon next to its name. You can switch to a gold-star plan at any time during the year instead of waiting until open enrollment.

  • Determining which plans to avoid: Medicare alerts you to any plan with consistently poor quality ratings — one that has earned low ratings for three years in a row — by posting a red warning icon next to its name.

  • Indicating which plans are available nationwide: Any plan that allows you to fill prescriptions at in-network retail pharmacies throughout the United States is identified with a green N icon at the end of the drug coverage column on this page.