Advocates urge millions who rely on Obamacare to take close look at plans as open enrollment begins

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The Affordable Care Act's six-week open enrollment period begins Friday. More than 8 million Americans are expected to sign up, and many are being reminded to take a close look at what's available.   

"I cannot overstate enough how important it is to take a look at your plan options," said Leigh Purvis, director of AARP's Health Services Research.

Purvis said it's very important to know what your plan does and doesn't cover, what has changed, and to consider switching if your current plan doesn't meet your needs.  

And those needs are growing every year as costs continue to soar. 

AARP recently released a report showing that annual increases in prescription drug prices have outpaced the rate of inflation for the past 12 years, which is an unsustainable system, according to Purvis.

"We have seen a lot of surveys lately that show that around a third of people are having a hard time paying for their prescription drugs and are choosing not to take them as prescribed. And that can be maybe taking fewer drugs, taking one pill instead of two, or it can be people just walking away entirely, and that obviously is a huge problem," Purvis added. 

In 2017, the report said the average cost of a prescription drug was almost $20,000 per drug per year.

"We took a look at that in contrast to what people actually make in a year. And what we found was that average annual cost was nearly 20 percent higher than the average Social Security retirement benefit and almost three quarters of the median income for Medicare beneficiaries, which is about $26,000," she said. 

Purvis advised steering clear of plans that make people jump through hoops.  

"Your drugs may be covered but you may have to take some extra steps to be able to access it," she explained. "So that's something else to keep an eye on. So really paying attention to the details and paying attention to how much you're going to be paying can make a real difference in how much your out-of-pocket costs are every year."

If you don’t act by Dec. 15, the ACA Marketplace will find a plan for you, and their choice may not necessarily be the best choice for you, Purvis added.