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Premiums Up, Coverage Down for Medicare Part D Plans

Nearly all stand-alone Medicare Part D plans will have a coverage gap in 2009

MONDAY, Nov. 10 (HealthDay News) -- Premiums for stand-alone Medicare Part D plans are set to rise by an average of almost 25 percent in 2009 versus 2008, while almost all plans will have a coverage gap and the lowest ever proportion will qualify for automatic enrollment for low-income subsidy beneficiaries, according to research released online by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The Foundation looked at 1,689 stand-alone Medicare Part D plans and found that the premiums for 2009 range from $10.30 per month to $136.80 per month, and that the weighted average monthly premium will increase from $29.89 in 2008 to $37.29 in 2009, a jump of 24.7 percent.

The so-called "doughnut hole,'' or coverage gap, in which enrollees have to pay 100 percent of total drug costs until they qualify for catastrophic level coverage, affects almost all of the Medicare Part D plans, although one of four plans offer limited gap coverage, typically for some or all generic drugs, the research revealed. The availability of plans that enable low-income beneficiaries to enroll without paying a premium varies widely by state, the Foundation discovered, from one in Nevada to 16 in Wisconsin.

"For 2009, fewer than one in five plans qualify for automatic or facilitated enrollment of low-income subsidy beneficiaries, the lowest share since the inception of the Part D benefit," the research paper states.

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