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How to Enroll in Medicare Part D to Get Prescription Drug Coverage


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Summary: How you enroll in Medicare Part D depends on how you wish to receive your Medicare health benefits. You can enroll in a stand-alone Medicare Part D plan or enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan that includes prescription drug coverage (MAPD).

Medicare Part D enroll: your choices

Before we get to how to enroll in Medicare Part D, here are a couple different ways you can get this coverage.

  • If you have government-administered Original Medicare, which includes Part A (hospital insurance) and Part B (medical insurance), you can enroll in Medicare Part D as a stand-alone Prescription Drug Plan.
  • You might have another option – not only for getting prescription drug benefits, but for getting your Medicare Part A and Part B benefits. If you have Medicare Part A and Part B, generally you may enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan that includes prescription drug coverage. These types of plans are sometimes called Medicare Advantage Prescription Drug plans, and they combine health and prescription drug coverage. So you enroll in Medicare Part D as part of enrolling in Medicare Advantage.

Usually, if you have a Medicare Advantage plan, you can’t enroll in Medicare Part D Prescription Drug coverage as a stand-alone plan. Most Medicare Advantage plans already include this coverage. However, you might be able to enroll in a stand-alone Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Plan if you are enrolled in Medicare Medical Savings Account (MSA), some Medicare Cost Plans, or some Private Fee-for-Service (PFFS) plans that don’t have prescription drug coverage.

How to enroll in Medicare Part D: know when you can sign up

In most cases, you may enroll in Medicare Part D through a plan that provides prescription drug coverage only during certain enrollment periods. These include:

  • Your Medicare Initial Enrollment Period (IEP): the seven-month period that includes the three months before, the month of, and the three months following your 65th birthday. Your IEP may be different if you qualify for Medicare by disability before you’re 65. This is your first opportunity to enroll in Medicare Part D.
  • The Annual Enrollment Period (AEP), which occurs October 15th to December 7th: the time of year when you can make certain changes to your Medicare coverage, including enrolling in Medicare Part D.
  • A Special Enrollment Period (SEP), which may occur because of personal circumstances, such as losing creditable prescription drug coverage from an employer group plan. The start date and length of the SEP depends on your situation.
  • There is a new Medicare Open Enrollment Period (OEP), which runs from January 1- March 31 annually starting in 2019. You may be able to enroll in a Medicare Advantage Prescription Drug plan, or switch from Medicare Advantage back to Original Medicare. If you switch back to Original Medicare, you can generally enroll in Medicare Part D through a stand-alone prescription drug plan during this period.

Note: If you live in a nursing home, you generally have the option of changing your Part D coverage. If you receive Extra Help, you may be able to enroll in a Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Plan. Call Medicare for details (see the number at the bottom of this page).

How to enroll in Medicare Part D: evaluate your options

Once you’ve decided what type of Medicare Part D coverage you want, it’s time to compare plans and choose one that may fit your health needs and your budget.

Check to see if medications you take are on the plan’s formulary. Compare costs, including any applicable deductibles, copayments, and coinsurance amounts as well as monthly premiums. You can find and compare plans offering Medicare Part D coverage entering your ZIP code and clicking on the Get Started button on this page.

As for how to enroll in Medicare Part D coverage – after you click Get Started, you can apply for coverage as well.

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