Report: Premium hikes for Medicare drug plans

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Seniors enrolled in seven of the 10 most popular Medicare prescription drug plans will be hit with double-digit premium hikes next year if they don’t shop for a better deal, says a private firm that analyzes the highly competitive market.

The report Monday by Avalere Health is a reality check on the Obama’s administration’s upbeat pronouncements. Back in August, officials had announced that the average premium for basic prescription drug coverage will stay the same in 2013, at $30 a month.

The administration’s number is accurate as an overall indicator for the entire market, but not very helpful to consumers individually since it doesn’t reflect price swings in the real world.

“The average senior is going to benefit by carefully scrutinizing their situation, because every year the market changes,” Avalere President Dan Mendelson said. Avalere crunched the numbers based on bid documents that the plans submitted to Medicare.

The report found premium increases for all top 10 prescription drug plans, known as PDPs. However, the most popular plan — AARP MedicareRx Preferred — is only going up 57 cents per month nationally, to $40.42 from the current $39.85.

The seven plans with double-digit premium increases were: the Humana Walmart-Preferred Rx Plan (23 percent); First Health Part D Premier (18 percent); First Health Part D Value Plus (17 percent); Cigna Medicare Rx Plan One (15 percent); Express Scripts Medicare-Value (13 percent); the HealthSpring Prescription Drug Plan (12 percent); and Humana Enhanced (11 percent).

Another two plans in the top 10 also had single-digit increases. They were the SilverScript Basic (8 percent) and WellCare Classic (3 percent).

On the plus side for consumers, a new low-cost plan entered the market. Premiums for the AARP MedicareRx Saver Plus Plan will average $15 a month nationally, although it won’t be available everywhere. That’s $3.50 less than the current low-cost leader, the Humana Walmart plan, whose premiums are rising to $18.50.

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