If you are currently or are about to become eligible for Medicare, you will have a 7-month Initial Enrollment Period (IEP) for Medicare Part D regardless of how you qualify for Medicare (e.g. turning 65, being younger than 65 and entitled to Medicare because of a disability, having ESRD or having ALS). The IEP begins 3 months before the month you become eligible for Medicare, your month of eligibility, and three months after the month you became eligible to enroll in a Part D plan.
If you don’t enroll in a Medicare drug plan during this initial enrollment period you can only enroll at the end of each year during the annual election period (October 15 – December 7). Your benefits will not start until the beginning of the following year and you will pay a 1% premium penalty for each month you delayed enrollment in Part D.
However, if you already have prescription drug coverage, such as through your or your spouse’s employer group plan or a retiree health plan, you may be able to delay your enrollment in Medicare Part D without being charged a premium penalty. This is true as long as that drug coverage is considered to be as good as or better than the standard Medicare prescription drug benefit. This kind of coverage is also referred to as ‘creditable coverage.’
If at any point in the future you decide to switch from your creditable drug coverage to the Medicare coverage, you can do so without paying a penalty.
If at some point in the future you lose your source of creditable coverage (i.e. you lose your employer or retiree health benefits), you can join a Medicare drug plan without penalty or a delay in benefits as long as you join that plan within 2 months after your current coverage ends. This is different from the 8-month period you have to sign up for Part B without a penalty in the same situation.
See the Medicare Part D – Prescription drugs section for more information on Part D.
How to enroll in Medicare Part D
You can enroll in a Part D plan in several ways:
- on the medicare.gov website,
- by calling a Part D plan directly, or
- by calling 1-800-MEDICARE.
Only you or your authorized representative may enroll you in a prescription drug plan. An authorized representative is someone who has the legal right to make health care decisions on your behalf (for example, through a power of attorney).
For information on resources available to help you make the best decision regarding your drug coverage, see the Prescription Drug Resources section.