How to Enroll in a Medicare Prescription Drug Plan

How to Enroll in a Medicare Prescription Drug Plan

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By Dan Wagener


If you’ve decided to get a Medicare Prescription Drug Plan, reviewed your options, and chosen a plan, then the next step is to enroll. As you’ll see, it’s not as complicated as it seems. First, know that enrolling when you’re eligible is important because Medicare may charge you penalties if you don’t sign up during a certain window. Secondly, there are several different ways to enroll, so you can decide on whichever way works best for you.

If you need more information on Medicare prescription medication plans before making a decision, read our post on how these plans work.

When do I enroll?

As we covered in our post on how Medicare prescription drug plans work, you can get prescription drug coverage through Medicare either by adding it to certain Medicare plans (like Part A and Part B), or by choosing a Medicare plan that comes with prescription drug coverage (like some Medicare Advantage Plans). Plans that you add on are known as Part D plans, while Medicare Advantage Plans that come with prescription drug coverage are known as MA-PD plans.

The best time to enroll in Medicare prescription medication plans is during specific time periods. These are:

  • Three months before the month you turn 65 years old, during your birthday month, and three months after your birthday month (this is known as the initial enrollment period)
  • During Open Enrollment (a period from October 15 to December 7) if you decide to enroll after you turn 65

As you consider enrolling, it’s important to be aware of a possible penalty for waiting too long to enroll or enrolling outside of these time periods. This penalty will be added to your plan’s monthly premium, and you could end up paying it for as long as you’re enrolled in a Medicare prescription medication plan.

You can avoid the penalty by:

  • Enrolling during the initial enrollment period
  • Not going 63 days or more in a row after your initial enrollment period without Medicare prescription drug coverage or creditable drug coverage (coverage that pays, on average, at least as much as Medicare’s standard coverage)

Keep in mind that you can only be enrolled in one type of prescription medication plan. If you are already enrolled in a Medicare Advantage Plan that includes prescription drug coverage and you enroll in Part D, for example, Medicare will disenroll you from the Advantage Plan and place you in original Medicare.

Where do I enroll?

When you’re ready to enroll, you can use Medicare’s Plan Finder to locate and compare plans in your area. There, you can enter your prescription medication information and estimate what your costs will be in the coming year.

Then, to sign up, you have a few options. You can:

  • Enroll through the Finder
  • Complete an enrollment form for the plan you select
  • Call the plan directly
  • Call Medicare at 1-800-633-4227

Remember that once you select a plan, it isn’t set in stone. You can re-evaluate each year and make changes during Open Enrollment. If you’re on a Medicare Advantage Plan, you can also switch to another Medicare Advantage Plan from January 1 to March 31.


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