Do I need Medicare Part D?

October 23rd, 2020

If you remember our previous Medicare explainers, Medicare Part D provides prescription drug coverage. Most people become eligible for Parts A and B once they turn 65. If you’re already receiving Social Security benefits, you’ll be automatically enrolled. Unlike Parts A and B, though, Medicare Part D is optional. 

This means you won’t automatically enroll in it. Some people may not even have to sign up at all, while others may be penalized for not signing up within a certain time period. 

Penalty fees? Yep. Even though Part D is optional, it’s likely in your best interest to sign up for prescription drug coverage. This is because even if you don’t get sick right away, you may someday need prescription drugs. And when you do eventually need coverage, you could face late enrollment fees. These aren’t just one-time fees, either—they’re lifelong penalties.

Here’s how to avoid paying for Part D twice—or racking up penalty fees.

Join a drug plan as soon as you’re eligible.

Sometimes the simplest solution is best. This is the easiest way to make sure you don’t have to pay a late enrollment penalty. Generally, people become eligible for Medicare Part D when they become eligible for Medicare. When selecting your plan, you may want to consider a Medicare Advantage Plan. Many of these include prescription drug coverage without you needing to shop for a separate plan.

Don’t go more than 63 consecutive days without drug coverage.

If you fall into certain categories, you may receive non-Medicare drug coverage. Check to see if you are receiving benefits from: 

  • A current employer
  • A former employer
  • Union benefits
  • TRICARE, which provides civilian health benefits for military personnel, retirees, and their dependents
  • Indian Health Services, the Federal Health Program for American Indians and Alaska Natives
  • The Department of Veterans Affairs
  • CHAMPVA, the civilian health benefits program that helps spouses and children of disabled Veterans or Veterans who have died cover services and supplies
  • Any other health insurance coverage you may have

If or when you lose those benefits, be sure to sign up for Medicare Part D within 63 days. Otherwise you could earn a penalty.

Keep a paper trail.

If you receive health benefits or coverage, find out whether you’re also getting drug coverage. Your provider should send this information to you. You may receive it in a letter or an email. Whichever it is, be sure to keep that confirmation on hand.

When you get Medicare Part D coverage, your provider will check whether you’ve had creditable drug coverage. You may receive a letter with a form as part of this process. Simply complete the form and return it to your provider within the allotted time.

Ready to find the right coverage? Head over to our Medicare center and get help finding the perfect plan.

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