NEW YORK (MONEY Magazine) -
Move No. 1: Take advantage of new Medicare plan.
Sign up for Medicare's new prescription drug program by May 15. If you're eligible for the plan but don't sign up by then and if your current coverage is not at least as good as Medicare's basic plan (by now your insurer should have told you whether it was), you will pay a higher premium should you later choose to enroll.
Don't worry if you don't love the plan you pick. Between Nov. 15 and Dec. 31, 2006, you'll be able to change plans without penalty.
For more information, go to medicare.gov or call 800-MEDICARE.
Move No. 2: See what your job offers. As companies battle rising health-insurance costs, more of them will be adding "wellness" programs in 2006 in hopes of improving their employees' overall health.
According to a recent survey by the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions and the ERISA Industry Committee, 62 percent of large employers now offer some type of wellness benefit. Nearly all the rest are thinking about it, so check into what your company offers.
Move No. 3: Consider generics. If you aren't already filling prescriptions with appropriate generic drugs, start. The cost of brandname drugs grew at more than twice the rate of inflation from mid-2004 to mid-2005, compared with zero increase for generics, according to the AARP Public Policy Institute.
"We expect the same pattern to continue in 2006," says AARP's John Rother. Copayments for brand-name drugs (typically $20 to $30 per prescription) could easily be $5 higher this year, says benefits consultant Towers Perrin, while generic drug copays should remain steady at $10 to $15.
More moves for 2006...