HealthPocket, a free website that compares and ranks health insurance plans, conducted an analysis of Medicare prescription drug plans in 50 states. For all 2014 Medicare Part D insurance plans sold in the United States, HealthPocket tallied the top 50 drugs by units sold in the U.S.
The website estimated the amount a beneficiary would pay for premiums and prescriptions, and then combined the results across all 50 drugs for each plan.
Drug costs varied widely among the different Medicare Part D prescription drug plans. For example, the AARP MedicareRx Preferred (PDP) plan in the state of Arizona had the lowest costs overall, while the Health Alliance Medicare Prescription Plan -- Basic (PDP) in Illinois -- had the highest combined drug costs overall. It was 155 percent more expensive than the AARP plan, HealthPocket said.
Medicare requires Part D insurance policies to cover at least two drugs in most medication categories, but which drugs are covered within each category is left to the discretion of the insurance company and the same drug covered by two different Medicare Part D plans can charge different amounts, HealthPocket said.
"The results of HealthPocket's analysis demonstrate a compelling financial consideration for comparison shopping Medicare Part D plans. Well-known insurance brands were no guarantee of low drug costs," Kev Coleman, head of research & data at HealthPocket, said in a statement.
"Both premiums and cost-sharing should be taken into consideration when evaluating Medicare Part D options. However, consumers should consider drug restrictions alongside costs since this can greatly affect their satisfaction with a particular drug plan."