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Should I get Medicare Part D?

News from the Area VI Agency on Aging

POLSON — At the Area VI Agency on Aging we are often asked this question by people who don’t take any prescriptions, or whose drugs are very inexpensive. We did not set these policies; we only try to help people in understanding them.

Before 2006 there was no Medicare prescription drug insurance. Many Americans on Medicare were having a hard time affording their prescriptions. Congress acted to add Part D. The late enrollment penalty was part of the structuring of the program. Part D is optional – you do not have to take it. However, when you start Part B, if you do not get a Part D plan or have other drug coverage, a late enrollment penalty starts to accrue for every month you were eligible but did not have prescription coverage. If you want to get a plan later you will have to pay the additional cost added to your premium every month for as long as you have Part D, which is usually for the rest of your life. Often people make the mistake of thinking the penalty is a one-time payment and think they’ll just pay it and be done with it. A good option is to get an inexpensive plan to avoid the late penalty accruing. Then if you need a more expensive plan later in life you can switch. You have that opportunity every year during Open Enrollment from Oct. 15-Dec. 7.

If you have other drug coverage which is creditable (as good or better than Medicare Part D coverage), for example coverage through current employment or retirement, VA or IHS, then no late penalty accrues during the time you are covered. If creditable coverage ends, you have 63 days to enroll in Part D with no late penalty. If you are new to Medicare you can enroll in a Part D plan during your Initial Enrollment Period (the three months before you turn 65 plus the month you turn 65 plus three months after your birth month equals seven months). If you have had Medicare Part B for a while, you can add Part D during Medicare Open Enrollment any year, just keep in mind that there will be a late penalty. The longer you’ve gone without it, the larger the penalty.

You can compare Medicare prescription drug plans and Advantage plans, and enroll, using the Planfinder tool at Part D drug coverage is included in most Advantage plans. Be aware that the Part D late penalty will still be added onto your advantage monthly premium. 

If you need help with choosing or changing Medicare drug coverage, call the Area VI Agency on Aging at 883-7284 or 1-800-266-4188. We’d also like to remind you again that Medicare Open Enrollment continues until Dec. 7, 2015.


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