Part D of Medicare is prescription drug coverage. Medicare Part D is an optional benefit offered to everyone with Medicare. You must have Part A and/or Part B of Original Medicare to be eligible for Part D, prescription drug coverage. You must also live in the drug plan’s service area.  

You can join a drug plan during your Initial Enrollment into Medicare. You can change your drug coverage during Open Enrollment between October 15 – December 7 each year, which would be effective the 1st of the following year.  

During this Open Enrollment period, if you have Part D, you will want to make sure your current plan will still meet your needs for the following year. If it is still offered and meets your specific needs, you do nothing, and your Part D plan will automatically be renewed for the following year. If it does not meet your needs, you will need to choose a new Part D plan during this enrollment period for the following year.

There are certain situations where you may be able to join, switch or drop Medicare drug plans at other times, such as moving out of your plan’s service area, losing other creditable drug coverage, and other circumstances.

It is important to know that if you are currently enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan that has drug coverage, should you join a stand-alone drug plan, Part D, you will be automatically disenrolled from your Medicare Advantage plan and returned to Original Medicare.  Many of the Medicare Advantage plans have drug coverage as part of their plan. There are exceptions in these types of plans where you may be eligible for a stand-alone drug plan.

If you drop your Part D drug plan and want to join another drug plan, you will have to wait for a specific enrollment period and may have to pay a late enrollment penalty if you do not currently have creditable drug coverage. While Medicare is telling people they are not legally required to have Part D, drug plans, they will potentially incur enormous penalties should they fail to enroll in a plan when they first take Medicare.