The cost of prescription medications continues to rise for everyone year after year. Medicare Part D was created specifically to help seniors deal with those rising costs. Many seniors report significant savings since the program began. However, before choosing a Medicare Part D plan, it is vitally important to do your research.
Matthew Bussard is dedicated to helping seniors navigate through the confusing world of the Medicare system. Here, he explains the Medicare Part D program’s essential features so you can decide if it’s right for you.
What is Medicare Part D?
Before 2006 Medicare did not offer any prescription benefits to seniors. Often seniors who did not have other coverage were asked to pay full price for their medications. Over time the rising costs of prescriptions made it extremely difficult for many seniors to purchase their medications. So, Congress developed the Medicare Part D insurance program specifically for prescription drugs.
What Does Part D Cover?
A Medicare Part D plan covers all name brand and generic prescription drugs prescribed for outpatient use. This means that if you pick up a prescription from your local pharmacy (or have it mailed to you), the drug will be covered by your plan. However, it does not cover any medications administered in a hospital or at a doctor’s office. Those drugs would be covered under different parts of Medicare. It also does not cover any over-the-counter medicines at all.
How to Enroll in a Part D Plan?
Traditional insurance companies sell these prescription plans. Those insurance companies are required to follow specific guidelines to participate in the Medicare Program. First, you much choose an insurance company and Medicare Part D plan from a Medicare-approved company. Start by searching for a plan and company on Medicare.gov.
This website has a plan finder tool that will let you compare the available plans. You will enter your area code and the medications you currently take. The tool uses this information to match you with a plan that most closely meets your needs. You will be able to compare premiums and deductibles, which you should do before choosing the best plan for you.
Pay attention to the enrollment window, or you may miss your opportunity to sign up for a plan. The open enrollment periods vary slightly from year to year, but it usually begins sometime in October and ends in early December. Typically you will receive reminders from Medicare letting you know precisely when open enrollment begins and ends each year. Sometimes you can enroll outside of this period depending on your circumstances, but this could likely result in a penalty.
Medicare Part D is an essential part of the Medicare program. Many seniors would struggle to afford their medications without it, resulting in a lower quality of life. By staying aware of your options and enrolling in a plan that fits your needs, you can ensure that you always have access to any necessary medications.