Medicare Part D

Every time we think we are getting closer to understanding how Medicare works, they add another part! Medicare Part D is for your prescription drug coverage. RX Bottle That’s right — your prescription drugs are covered under a totally different part of Medicare than your hospital or outpatient coverage! Not only that, you actually have a lot of different Part D Prescription Drug Plans to choose from based on the prescriptions you take. Luckily, Part D plans will significantly help you save money on some of your more costly prescriptions. Taking charge of your healthcare and choosing the best-rated Medicare Part D plan will help alleviate many of the expenses that come with your prescription cost.
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Does Medicare Include Prescriptions?

Original Medicare Parts A and B do not include prescription drug coverage. Beginning in 2006, Medicare beneficiaries were given the option to enroll in option Medicare Part D prescription drug plans. These Medicare Part D plans are designed specifically for Medicare beneficiaries to offer coverage for prescription medications and to help limit the cost of these drugs.

How Much Does Medicare Part D Cost?

The cost of Medicare Part D plans depends on multiple factors. Medicare Part D plans are offered by insurance carriers and can have different monthly premiums, deductibles, and coinsurance levels based on your prescription tier. The maximum 2021 Part D deductible is $445. There are typically five prescription tiers for Medicare Part D, and the coinsurance/copayment amount for each prescription increases as the tiers do.

Can You Sign Up for Medicare Part D at Any Time?

No. Signing up for a Medicare Part D plan must take place during appropriate enrollment time periods.

Initial Enrollment Period: If you enroll in Medicare at age 65, you can also enroll in Medicare Part D. Your Initial Enrollment Period (IEP) begins three months before your birthday month, includes your birthday months, and ends three months after your birthday month.

Special Enrollment Period: If you enroll in Medicare after age 65 when you are retiring, you can enroll in Medicare Part D during your Special Enrollment Period (SEP). To enroll in Medicare Part D during your SEP, you must do so within 63 days of leaving your employer coverage.

Annual Election Period: The Annual Election Period (AEP), also known as open enrollment, occurs every year from October 15th – December 7th. During AEP, Medicare beneficiaries can add, drop, or change a Medicare Part D plan, with changes going into effect on January 1st of the next year.

If you do not sign up for Medicare Part D when you enroll in Medicare Part B, whether during your IEP or SEP, you can still enroll in a plan during the Annual Election Period. However, you will face a lifetime late enrollment penalty.

What Is Medicare Part D?

For starters, Medicare Part D began at the federal level in 2006. It was created to help those who benefit from Medicare continue their access to any of their prescription drugs. This was done to stop Medicare enrollees from covering the entire cost of their prescriptions and leaving them scrambling to find ways to pay them. There is no automatic enrollment, as this part of Medicare is voluntary. Before this part of the program was developed, you would always pay for all your prescriptions out of your expenses. This proved costly for many, as some life-saving medications can prove challenging to afford.

As mentioned before, by enrolling in Medicare Part D, you can get coverage for your medically prescribed drugs and compare costs based on your preferred retail pharmacies. This will give you a chance to get your prescriptions at a more cost-effective rate. This is highly beneficial as the cost of many prescription drugs can be astronomical, even for a generic brand. Other organizations, such as AARP, also offer plans to help you save money on your prescription drugs.

If you wish to enroll in this part of Medicare, you must submit a separate application for Part D, not completed through Social Security. You actually have the ability to review and enroll in Part D plans directly through Medicare, but it is crucial to work with an experienced agent to be sure that you fully understand your plan’s coverage, as well as your cost-share.

How Much Does Medicare Part D Cost?

When you look into any supplemental private insurance for Medicare Part D, there are a few things it includes. Like most insurance policies, Medicare Part D has a monthly cost that you will pay — this is the premium. On top of this, you will have to take part in the cost-sharing for any expenses you’ll be responsible for when it comes to getting your prescription medications at your pharmacy. If your plan has some form of a deductible, this may be included in your cost-sharing.

Medicare Part D Monthly Premium costs

Your premiums will vary depending on the drug plan you have chosen. Remember that each insurance company will have a different set of rates. While this won’t deviate too much, consider what you need for coverage and how much you are willing or able to spend on a monthly premium. Each state will have numerous plans for you to choose from in 2024. You may see an average of twenty in many states, so you’ll have some great choices for your healthcare needs. You could see a premium at $0 on the low end to over $160 on others with many plans. This is dependent on the insurance company and your needs. Also, not every insurance provider will cover the same medications. Each one has its list that will be covered in the plan you choose. This allows them to adjust the costs that you’ll be charged for each year. Before deciding on a specific plan, check with the provider, and see if your particular medications are covered in the plan. An agent should be able to assist you.

While a low premium may seem attractive, you do get what you pay for. They may or may not provide you with the coverage you need. That’s why it’s crucial that the plan you choose will cover the drugs that you need for your continued health. The one thing you don’t want to happen is getting tied down with an insurance plan that won’t cover your needs. Getting your medications covered is imperative, so check beforehand to make a wise decision in your purchase.

Another cost to consider is the Income Related Monthly Adjusted Amount (IRMAA). This is because if you have a higher income, you may be responsible for paying more for your plan. If you have filed individually with more than $103k or even jointly with your spouse at $206k, you’ll be responsible for paying the extra costs for your coverage. This additional cost is not part of our Medicare premium, and you won’t be paying it to your chosen plan. This cost will be paid directly to Medicare or even the Railroad Retirement Board. If you don’t pay this amount, you will lose your coverage. To see the current 2024 costs for the IRMAA, view this cost table

It is important to understand that Medicare drug plans are NOT standardized like a Medicare supplement plan. This means that they can vary greatly in the coverage they offer.
Keith Armbrecht
Medicare on Video

Cost Sharing With Medicare Part D

Cost-sharing is when you pay your share of prescription medications at your pharmacy. Essentially, you pay for a portion of your medications, and your insurance carrier pays for a portion of your medications. Your level of cost-sharing is dependent on the Medicare Part D plan you enroll into, so it is essential to understand your amounts based on your prescriptions. Cost-sharing is seen in the deductible, initial coverage, coverage gap (donut hole), and catastrophic coverage stages, although the amounts vary from stage to stage.

How to Use Medicare Drug Plan Finder

How To Choose a Medicare Part D Plan

When comparing Medicare Part D plans, it is important to assess which plan will fit your prescription needs. There are multiple factors to consider, such as monthly premiums, deductibles, and coinsurance/copayment amounts. It is important to speak with a licensed agent to review your Medicare Part D options.

Input Your Medications

When using the prescription drug plan finder on the website, there is an option to input your current list of prescriptions. You will need to input the name, dosage, and frequency of your medications. You will want to be as accurate as possible when inputting these prescriptions, as this will determine the most appropriate plan options for you. You can also choose from a list of pharmacies in your area if you have a preferred pharmacy for your prescriptions.


Compare the Drug Plan Options Available

Once you have inputted your medications and preferred pharmacy, you will see a list of all of the drug plan options in your area. From this list, you will be able to compare the best-rated Medicare Part D plans side-by-side to see the differences in premium, deductibles, and coinsurance levels, as well as the overall annual cost of the plans. It is vital to utilize a trained and licensed agent to walk you through the differences between the plans available, as well as how to enroll in your selected plan.


Medicare Part D Stages of Coverage

Stage One: Deductible

When it comes to your deductibles, specific guidelines are set forth for all plans dealing with Part D on a yearly basis. . These are set by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Because of this organization, all private insurance company plans are instructed to adhere to the sent-out guidelines. Medicare sets the yearly threshold for all four stages of these insurance Part D drug plans.

Your deductible is the amount you pay before the insurance carrier begins to pay any portion of your prescription drug costs. The deductible is considered the first stage of coverage in a Part D plan. In 2024, the deductible maximum is $545. Some plans may have lower deductibles than these, but these maximums are common on many plans. Medicare sets the cap for the deductibles, so no Part D deductible can be higher than what CMS regulates.

Once you meet your annual deductible on your Part D plan, you will enter the initial coverage stage.

Stage Two: Initial Coverage

During the initial coverage stage, your insurance carrier begins to pay for a portion of your prescription medications. During this stage, you begin to pay either a coinsurance amount or copayment for each of your prescriptions. This amount is determined by the tier level of your medication, as well as the drug plan’s formulary. There are generally five Medicare Part D prescription tiers: preferred generics, non-preferred generics, preferred brands, non-preferred brands, and specialty medications. The copay or coinsurance will be set based on the tier of the prescription medication. Generally, the higher the medication tier, the higher your cost-share will be.

  • Tier One is coverage for preferred generic drugs.
  • Tier Two is for your non-preferred generic drugs.
  • Tier Three is for preferred brand-name drugs.
  • Tier Four is for non-preferred brand-name drugs.
  • Tier Five is for specialty tier medications.

Once your total drug cost reaches $5,030 in 2024, you will enter the coverage gap, also known as the donut hole.

Stage Three: Coverage Gap/ Donut Hole

“Donut hole” sounds sweet, doesn’t it? Don’t be so sure — it is not somewhere you want to be!

Although the donut hole is technically “closed,” this stage still leaves you with a very big cost-share. Once your total drug cost reaches $5,030 in 2024, you will enter the coverage gap. Total drug cost includes what your insurance company has paid for your prescriptions, as well as what you have paid for your prescriptions. It does not, however, include your monthly premium amounts.

Once you have reached the donut hole, you will now pay up to 25% for all of your generic and brand-name medications. That’s right — you now are going to be paying for 1/4th of your medication costs! Don’t worry too much; only about 12% of people with Part D plans ever reach the coverage gap. However, if you take expensive medications, it is something you want to avoid if possible. If you do enter the donut hole, it will take a bit more spending before you get out.

Stage Four: Catastrophic Coverage

While in the donut hole, Medicare begins to track your True Out-of-Pocket (TrOOP). Your TrOOP includes your deductible, copays/coinsurances, and the drug manufacturer’s 70% cost. Once your TrOOP has reached $7,400 in 2024, you will enter catastrophic coverage.

Catastrophic coverage sounds even worse than the donut hole, but it is actually much better. When you reach this final stage of your Part D coverage, your cost-share drops significantly. You will now pay no more than 5% of the retail cost. Essentially, your plan is now paying 15% of your prescription costs, Medicare is paying 80%, and you are paying 5%. Only about 4% of people with Part D plans make it to this stage, however, so a large portion of people who enter the donut hole never make it out.

At the end of the calendar year, everything resets, and you are back to stage one!

Extra Help for Those Extra Costs

AARP offers drug plans that help you save money on your prescriptions. Additionally, for those who qualify, the government does provide help for your drug plan costs. This program, the Low-Income Subsidy, is based on your income and how limited your resources are. Applying is easy and can be done at the Social Security office. If your income falls below the Federal Poverty level of 150% within your household size, you may qualify.

Beneficiaries will receive assistance on the following:

  • Paying your premiums for your monthly Part D plan.
  • Your deductible.
  • It will also help pay for your copays for any of your prescriptions.

There are various levels of qualification. The amount of assistance you get will depend on your subsidy level. A full subsidy will provide you with paying for $100 of your premium. This, however, is based on the year Medicare benchmark.

Voluntary Enrollment

Enrollment into a Medicare Part D plan is strictly voluntary. Great news, right? You might think, “If I don’t take any prescriptions, I can save a little bit of money and pick one up when I need it.” Sign Up Unfortunately, that is not the case. Although enrollment is voluntary, if you delay it, you will end up with some financial penalties and end up in a strict timeline for your enrollment.

The first aspect of delaying your Part D enrollment is the late penalty. The Part D late penalty is a life-long penalty added to your monthly premium when you decide to enroll in a Part D plan. The penalty is calculated as 1% for every month you delay enrollment that you do not have creditable drug coverage multiplied by the base modal premium (which changes year to year). Basically, the longer your delay your Part D enrollment, the higher your penalty becomes.

The other aspect to consider is your enrollment timeline. If you do not enroll in Part D when you are first eligible — whether turning 65 or leaving a creditable plan — you must wait until Open Enrollment. Open Enrollment, also known as the Annual Election Period, occurs every year from October 15th – December 7th, with coverage beginning January 1st. This means that you can’t just pick up a Part D plan whenever you need one. Rather, we now have to follow Medicare’s rules and timelines.

How to Enroll in Medicare Part D

You have a couple of choices in your enrollment. You can use a private insurance provider for any direct registration or use an agent who offers specialized Medicare services. An agent will give you an extra resource if you ever need help with your Medicare Part D plan. This is especially useful if you have any questions or concerns regarding your medication coverage. Sign Up for Medicare Although utilizing an agent is the most beneficial way to make sure you have a plan that suits your needs, as well as ensure that you fully understand your coverage, you also can compare plans on Medicare’s website. It is sometimes helpful to input your prescriptions into the Medicare plan finder before enrolling in Medicare to give yourself an idea as to what your prescription costs may be under Part D.

The Best Time to Enroll

There are only certain times to enroll. One of them is when you are first eligible for Medicare. This Initial Enrollment Period will last seven months, so you’ll have time to consider your options. This period encompasses the three months before you turn 65, your current birth month, and the following three months. If you become eligible due to a disability, then there is a similar enrollment period for you to get the coverage you need.

The second enrollment period is the Special Enrollment Period (SEP). You may be eligible for an SEP if you are over the age of 65 but remained on what Medicare considers creditable health coverage; typically an employer-sponsored health plan. If you qualify for an SEP, you can enroll in a Part D plan up to 63 days after leaving your group coverage.

There is also another coverage period that starts on October 15th and runs through December 7th. You can enroll or disenroll from your drug plan. Since providers change their benefits, networks, and costs on January 1st of the following year, you get this additional time to make any changes to your healthcare if needed. They will automatically renew if you are comfortable with your current plan. Remember to consider any medication changes you may have been through before you continue with your current plan.

Special Election Periods

Usually, you’re stuck with a plan until the next enrollment period. Fortunately, there are particular circumstances where Medicare will allow you to change in the middle of your coverage year. This is called a Special Election Period. This can be when moving to another state or losing any coverage you may have added. Work with an agent to make sure this won’t be rejected, as the wrong coding in your plan can cause problems in your coverage. It would help if you also asked your agent about this Medicare Part D coverage. They won’t ask you as it isn’t allowed.

When it comes time to turn 65 or retire from your employer’s plan, you want to make sure you have all the information needed to make sure that this part of Medicare is right for you. Your healthcare is crucial to a healthier life and a positive mental state of being. Choosing the right plan for your situation can be challenging and take some time, but getting help with your Medicare Part D plan is right around the corner. A private agent or will assist you in finding the right plan for your needs.

Apply for Medicare Part D Online

Do you still have questions about applying for Medicare Part D online? At Medicare On Video, we’re proud to offer you the resources to make informed decisions about your future. Check our:

Contact us now at 877-88KEITH (53484) for additional information!

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