Program Description

Medicare offers prescription drug coverage to everyone with Medicare. If you decide not to join a Medicare Prescription Drug Plan (Part D) when you're first eligible, and you don't have other creditable prescription drug coverage, or you don't get Extra Help, you'll likely pay a late enrollment penalty.

To get Medicare drug coverage, you must join a plan run by an insurance company or other private company approved by Medicare. Each plan can vary in cost and drugs covered.

There are two ways to get drug coverage:

1.     A Medicare Prescription Drug Plan (Part D)

2.     A Medicare Advantage Plan (Part C), like an HMO or PPO, or other Medicare health plan that offers Medicare prescription drug coverage.

Visit Medicare.gov for more information on these two options, or call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227). TTY users can call 1-877-486-2048.

General Program Requirements

  • There are specific times when you can sign up for these plans, or make changes to coverage you already have. Generally, you can join, switch, or drop a Medicare drug plan: When you first become eligible for Medicare because you’re turning or turned 65. You can sign up for a Medicare drug plan during your Initial Enrollment Period – the 7-month period that begins 3 months before the month you turn 65, includes the month you turn 65, and ends 3 months after the month you turn 65. If you sign up during the first 3 months of your Initial Enrollment Period, in most cases, your coverage starts the first day of your birthday month. However, if your birthday is on the first day of the month, your coverage will start the first day of the prior month.  If you enroll the month you turn 65 or during the last 3 months of your Initial Enrollment Period, the start date for your coverage will be delayed.
  • If you get Part B for the first time during the General Enrollment Period, you can also join a Medicare drug plan from April 1 – June 30. Your coverage will start on July 1.
  • During open enrollment, between October 15 - December 7 each year. Your coverage will begin on January 1 of the following year, as long as the plan gets your request during Open Enrollment.
  • At any time, if you qualify for Extra Help. Extra Help is a Medicare program to help people with limited income and resources pay Medicare prescription drug program costs, like premiums, deductibles, and coinsurance.
  • When certain events happen in your life, like if you move or you lose other insurance coverage. These chances to make changes are called Special Enrollment Periods (SEPs). Rules about when you can make changes and the type of changes you can make are different for each SEP.

Visit Medicare.gov or call 1-800-MEDICARE for more information on when you can join, switch, or drop a Medicare drug plan.

Your Next Steps

The following information will lead you to the next steps to apply for this program.

Application Process

You can use the Medicare Plan Finder to compare different Medicare drug plans.

Once you choose a Medicare drug plan, here's how you may be able to join:

  • Enroll on the Medicare Plan Finder or on the plan's website.
  • Complete a paper enrollment form.
  • Call the plan.
  • Call 1-800-MEDICARE.

Program Contact Information

For more information, please visit Medicare.gov or call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227). TTY users can call 1-877-486-2048.

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