Comparing Discount Prescription Drug Plans

January 1, 2010


How do the MediCare discount prescription drug plans compare to other commercial and free discount drug plans already in the market?  The Medicare-endorsed cards will be issued primarily by HMOs, whereas the commercial plans and free plans are offered by other types of health care firms.  The Medicare plans are available only to qualified beneficiaries bit the commercial plans are available to anyone.  Clearly low income seniors will benefit because the Medicare-endorsed card includes a $600 cash benefit.  But for everyone else, the benefits are questionable and the commercial plans may actually be more valuable.  The chart below summarizes three of the different types of prescription drug cards, using the most popular plans at MedSave.com in each category as specific examples.

  Medicare Commercial Free
Cost $30/year about $60/year $0
Eligibility qualified Medicare beneficiaries anyone anyone
Savings 20% to 50% 20% to 55% 15% to 50%
Online Sources Medicare.gov Ehealthdiscountplan.com MedSave.com
Advantages Low income beneficiaries get $600 cash benefit, drug prices are published online one card covers whole household, strong member service, 30 day free trial, Canadian mail-order service fast access, print and use immediately
Disadvantages must wait until eligible not available in all states no user service

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