There are four stages to most Part D plans: The Deductible Phase, Initial Coverage Phase, Coverage Gap (aka Donut Hole) and finally the Catastrophic Phase. Not all plans have a Deductible Phase, but those that do don’t always apply it to all prescriptions. In many cases, Tier I and II generic drugs are covered without the insured needing to meet the deductible.
In 2021, the maximum deductible for any plan is $445 ($10 more than 2020). Some charge less, however. In fact, a few have a $0 deductible, but those plans typically have higher monthly premiums.
After the deductible is the Initial Coverage Phase. During this window, the insurance company pays more and you pay less for your prescriptions. It’s not uncommon for the insurance company to pay 75% of the cost in the Initial Coverage Phase. This phase occurs until both you can your plan have spent $4,130 combined on covered drugs.
Next comes the Coverage Gap – more commonly referred to as the Donut Hole. Most people don’t reach it, but if you do, you pay a larger share of your prescription amounts. This window begins at $4,130 and ends once both you and your Part D plan have reached total costs of $6,550 in covered prescriptions on your formulary. Some insurance companies will cover generics at a lower percentage in the Donut Hole. For 2021, there is a discount in the Donut Hole of 75% for drugs on your formulary. This is why some are saying it has gone away. Nevertheless, you can expect to pay about the same as 2020 amounts on covered prescriptions in this phase.
The final stage is the Catastrophic Coverage Phase. It begins once you and your selected Part D drug plan have paid $6,550 combined on covered prescriptions. In the Catastrophic Phase, you’ll end up paying a very small copay (or coinsurance amount) should you reach it. Most copays are under $10 in this stage.
Again, it’s important to know about recent changes. The reduction/elimination of the Medicare Part D Donut Hole in 2020 will help many. However, it’s important to note that consumers (and Part D providers) will need to spend more before they reach the catastrophic phase. In 2019 it was $5,100 and this year the amount has increased significantly to $6,550. The hope is that the Donut Hole Discount will help to alleviate some of this new financial burden.