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Medicare Basics

Medicare Prescription Drug Coverage

Medicare Part D offers prescription drug coverage to anyone who is enrolled in Medicare. You can opt out of receiving this benefit. However, if you choose not to sign up when you’re first eligible, you will most likely pay a late enrollment penalty.

A Few Things about Medicare Prescription Drug Coverage

  • Medicare prescription drug coverage is available only through private health insurers that are approved by Medicare.
  • You can purchase a stand-alone plan, or your prescription drug coverage can be bundled with your Medicare Advantage plan (Part C), but you must have Medicare Part A and Medicare Part B to join a Medicare Advantage plan.
  • Prices and coverage may vary from plan to plan, so it will most likely be worth your while to shop around.
  • If you don’t sign up for prescription drug coverage (or have some other form of creditable prescription drug coverage) as soon as you’re eligible, you may be charged a late enrollment penalty.

Two Ways to Get Coverage

While Part D prescription drug coverage is only available through private health insurers, there are two ways you can receive your coverage:

  • A stand-alone Medicare Prescription Drug Plan
  • A Medicare Advantage (Part C) plan that includes prescription drug coverage

If you have Medicare Parts A and B and don’t want to switch to a Medicare Advantage plan, then you need to enroll in a stand-alone plan to avoid a late enrollment penalty (unless you have creditable coverage or receive Extra Help). While many Medicare Advantage plans offer prescription drug coverage as part of the plan, some don’t.