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What is Medicare Part D?

  • Prescription Coverage is often referred to as Medicare Part D
  • Medicare coverage of prescription drugs is an optional benefit offered to everyone who has Medicare Part A
  • Medicare Part D plans can help lower than the full market price of medicine
  • Automatic refill services through the mail may be a convenient option for some seniors
  • Medicare Part D plans are available through private insurance companies contracted by Medicare, but costs and availability may vary based on state and county

What is a Medicare Advantage Part D Plan?

To receive Medicare drug coverage, you must join a Medicare plan that offers coverage for prescriptions. For example, you could have a stand-alone Prescription Drug Plan, or integrate your prescription and medical coverage through a Medicare Advantage plan. Both options are provided by private insurance companies contracted with Medicare.

If you have Medicare and Medicaid, your premiums can be covered under both plans.

Cost of Medicare and Social Security

Does Part D lower prescription drug cost?

The drugs in the plan’s drug formulary will have a lower price than available on the open market. Under Medicare Part D plans, a beneficiary would pay a copay rather than the full market price for their medication. The higher tier drugs in the formulary usually have the highest copay amounts.

The goal of reducing the overall costs to consumers involves preferences for lower-cost drugs, which include generics. Plans sometimes ask prescribers to try step therapy, in which they agree to trial using a specific lower-cost version of a high tier drug.

Part D Prescription Drug Coverage

What is a PDP?

The simplest is a prescription drug plan, sometimes called PDP, that covers only some medications and uses the same pharmacy network as a Medicare Advantage or Medicare Part D plan. The other types include Medicare, Medicaid, and other health insurance plans, such as Medicare for All, or combining the Plan with Medicare Advantage plans. Medicare Advantage Prescription Drug plans cover a wide range of medications, from prescription drugs to prescription painkillers to cancer drugs.

Part D Prescription Drug Coverage

When do you enroll in Medicare Part D?

Several events lead to the initial open enrollment for Part D.

  • At the start of Medicare coverage is the Initial Enrollment Periods for Part C & Part D. This is the ideal time to choose a Drug plan under Medicare or a private provider.
  • Best for applicants age 65 and newly eligible for Medicare
  • Best choice for applicants ages 65 and newly eligible for Medicare
  • Best for those already eligible for Medicare because of a disability, and that turned 65.
Part D Prescription Drug Coverage

What is the best time to enroll in Medicare Part D?

The best time to enroll in Medicare Part D is when one gets enrolled in Medicare A and B. If you enroll at the same time you start your Part A & B benefits, you will avoid a Late Enrollment Penalty when you do decide to elect a Part D plan. 

Yearly enrollment periods provide opportunities to revise and change coverage options for Part D. Annual Enrollment, the yearly time to add or change Medicare Advantage or Plan D plans runs from October 15 through December 7.

Part D Prescription Drug Coverage - Insurance Policy

Which Drugs Are Covered By Part D?

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) approves the drug formulary for each plan, and the plan must update the list approximately twice per month.

Changes in the formulary are essential as they may affect drug choices and coverage for the plan or members. Plans routinely provide notice to customers in advance of changes such as dropping a drug or adding a low cost generic in place of a high tier drug.

Part D Prescription Drug Coverage

Medicare Part D Costs

The costs for Part D prescription drug plans vary by state and county. Those who apply late must pay a Late Enrollment Penalty. Upper-income earners must pay an IRMAA premium adjustment fee that slides on a scale based on income above $85,000 per year. Social security determines additional fees.

Enrollees can authorize an automatic deduction from social security for Part D premiums. Costs also include deductibles, copays, and coinsurance, which vary by the plan you choose.

Part D Prescription Drug Coverage

What's the Late Enrollment Penalty for Part D?

The late enrollment penalty fee is an amount of money added to the Medicare Part D monthly premium. It must be paid as part of the premium to Medicare to maintain coverage.

The penalty applies to applicants who go without prescription medical coverage for more than 63 consecutive days after the Initial Enrollment Period’s final date.

Calculating the penalty is a simple equation based on the national base beneficiary premium. Medicare estimates one percent for every uncovered month. In 2020, the formula was one percent of the $32.74 base.

Part D Prescription Drug Coverage

Coverage Gap

The coverage gap is an area of spending in which beneficiaries do not get the full benefit of drug discounts (this gap may change annually). There is a temporary limit on the discount that affects participants who have spent $3,750 on covered drugs (in 2018). It does not affect people who get assistance from the Extra Help program.

In this gap, the coverage fails to reduce prices effectively. Short-term adjustments included allowing copays and coinsurance as out-of-pocket spending to get some participants to the catastrophic threshold faster.

The program reform will reduce the participant’s share to 25 percent by 2020—only the amount paid by participants counts as an out-of-pocket expense.

The 2018 coverage out-of-pocket limit is $5,000. Many participants will spend significant amounts on prescriptions before their burden goes entirely over to the coverage. The discounts on prescription drugs in the Part D Prescription Plans are crucial for personal budgets and adequate medical care.

By the year 2020, coverage costs for brand-name drugs will average approximately 25 percent in the coverage gap. This amount is the same paid for drugs between reaching the deductible and the out-of-pocket limit. The coverage gap will have been reduced significantly.

Part D Prescription Drug Coverage

Catastrophic Coverage

This benefit promises relief for Medicare participants who must pay a significant amount each year for prescription medications. Catastrophic coverage begins after participants have reached the annual out-of-pocket limit for prescription drug coverage.

As an example, the out-of-pocket limit for 2018 was $5,000. Catastrophic coverage begins automatically and immediately. It provides that participants will only pay a small copay or coinsurance with each prescription through the end of the calendar year.

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