Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — Consumer alert: A new Medicare drug plan with the lowest upfront cost in the country may not be for everyone, experts say.
Medicare's open enrollment season just started, and the plan from insurer Humana and retail giant Walmart is getting attention. At $14.80, the monthly premium is the lowest of any national plan, about half the average. And Humana and Walmart (Stock Quote: WMT) are advertising savings of more than $450 a year for the typical Medicare recipient.
But experts say if you can't get to a Walmart easily and need costly medications for intractable conditions, it could be a disappointment. You could face copayments as high as 50 percent for drugs purchased at local independent drugstores, "non-preferred" pharmacies as far as the plan goes.
"It may well be a good bargain, but people have to do the research," said Jack Hoadley, a research professor at the Georgetown Health Policy Institute. "It's not just the premiums. It's the premiums plus the drugs they take, and then they have to take into account the pharmacy: Is it practical for them to use the Walmart pharmacy?"
Plan members can choose to fill their prescriptions at more than 60,000 pharmacies nationwide, but only about 4,000 — Walmart, Sam's Club or Neighborhood Market stores — are "preferred," and offer the lowest copayments.