Considering the price of drugs in a plan is also important, Precht said. "There are a number of plans that charge quite a bit more for generics than other plans," he said. "Particularly for people who take multiple drugs, that can make a difference between getting in the doughnut hole or not getting in the doughnut hole."
Precht said some people use a combination of strategies to reduce their drug costs. "They rely on the cheap generics, if you can get it from some of the 'big box' stores, using Part D for brand name drugs, plus buying drugs from Canada as an option for brand-name medications," he said.
People in Part D who meet the requirements for the low-income subsidy usually aren't responsible for costs in the coverage gap. The gap was intentionally included in the plan when it was launched four years ago so costs would not exceed the limits set by Congress.
Another option for some people may be a so-called Medicare Advantage Plan. These plans cover both your medical care and prescription drugs. But before enrolling in one of these plans you may want to be sure your doctor and hospital are part of the plan you choose.
For more on Medicare Part D, visit the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid.
SOURCES: Paul Precht, director, Policy and Communications, Medicare Rights Center, New York City and Washington, D.C.; Kaiser Family Foundation