Medicare Part D Enrollment Periods


Medicare Part D helps cover the cost of prescription drugs for Medicare beneficiaries. If you want to enroll in a Medicare Part D plan, there are three different enrollment periods to know about.

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It is important to understand enrollment periods to avoid the Medicare Part D late enrollment penalty. This penalty stays with you for as long as you have a Medicare Part D plan.

Enrollment Periods for Medicare Part D

To be eligible to enroll in Medicare Part D, you must first enroll in Medicare Part A, Medicare Part B, or both.

The three enrollment periods for Medicare Part D are:

  • Initial Enrollment period
  • Special Enrollment Period
  • Annual Enrollment Period

Medicare Part D Initial Enrollment Period

The Medicare Part D Initial Enrollment Period is the first opportunity beneficiaries receive to enroll in a Medicare prescription drug plan. The Initial Enrollment Period begins on the first day of the month, three months before your 65th birthday. Thus, everyone’s Initial Enrollment Period is different. Once it begins, your Initial Enrollment Period ends on the last day of the month, three months later.

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Once you enroll in Medicare Part A or Medicare Part B, you can also use your Initial Enrollment Period to enroll in Medicare Part D. During this time, you are able to compare each Medicare Part D plan available in your area. It is important to review all available plans to ensure you are on the best plan for your needs and budget.

Any elections you make during this time will go into effect on the first day of the month you turn 65. If you enroll during your birth month or after, elections will go into effect on the first of the following month.

If you do not enroll during your Initial Enrollment Period, it is essential to have creditable drug coverage in place in the meantime, to avoid the Medicare Part D late enrollment penalty. Always be sure to check with your plan administrator or your local Social Security Administration about your coverage. Never assume the coverage you have is creditable.

Medicare Part D Special Enrollment Period

Medicare Part D Special Enrollment Periods occur when certain situations or events happen in life. Special Enrollment Periods give you a chance to make changes to your current Medicare Part D plan or enroll in a Medicare Part D plan outside of a typical Medicare Part D enrollment period. However, to enroll in a plan for the first time, you must meet all other Medicare Part D eligibility requirements.

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Several events can trigger a Special Enrollment Period. These include changing where you live, becoming eligible for new coverage outside of Medicare, losing your current coverage, changes to your current plan’s contract with Medicare, and other special situations.

Changes you make during a Special Enrollment Period will go into effect on the first of the following month.

Medicare Part D Annual Enrollment Period

The Annual Enrollment Period occurs each fall from October 15 to December 7. If you delay Medicare Part D coverage and do not have creditable drug coverage, this is your chance to enroll in a prescription drug plan for the following year. During this time, you may also make a change to your prescription drug plan or drop prescription drug coverage altogether.

Each year Medicare Part D plan formulary changes are released on October 1. It is important to review the changes to your plan’s formulary and compare it to other plans in your area. Doing so will ensure you receive the best coverage year after year.

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You can make multiple changes during this time, but the last change you make will go into effect. Once you make your final change, your new coverage will start on January 1 of the following year.

Enrolling in Medicare Part D Outside of an Enrollment Period

Outside of the three enrollment periods, beneficiaries are not eligible to enroll in a Medicare Part D prescription drug plan. Unfortunately, enrollment in these plans is limited to the above timeframes only.

If you are prescribed a medication that is not covered on your Medicare Part D plan’s formulary, there are options available to help you save money on prescription costs until the next enrollment period.

Coupon services like GoodRx or manufacturer coupons are occasionally available to help lower the cost of certain drugs. However, these coupons are not always guaranteed, so you should not rely on them.

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How to Get Help with Enrolling in Medicare Part D

Enrolling in a Medicare Part D prescription drug plan does not have to be a difficult task. Understanding the enrollment periods and how they work is the first step to successfully enrolling in a Medicare Part D plan. If you’re confused or still unsure of what your best option is, do not worry. We can help you!

Our licensed Medicare agents are happy to help clear up any confusion or answer any questions you may have regarding Medicare Part D coverage and enrollment.

We will compare plans and provide you with all the quotes you need, free of charge. Give us a call at the number above or fill out our online rate comparison form to get started today!

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Jagger Esch

Jagger Esch is the Medicare expert for MedicareFAQ and the founder, president, and CEO of Elite Insurance Partners and MedicareFAQ.com. Since the inception of his first company in 2012, he has been dedicated to helping those eligible for Medicare by providing them with resources to educate themselves on all their Medicare options. He is featured in many publications as well as writes regularly for other expert columns regarding Medicare.

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