Medicare Part D

Medicare Part D is the prescription drug benefit offered through private insurance companies as either a stand-alone plan or as part of a Medicare Advantage plan. This is Medicare Part D explained.

What Is Medicare Part D?

Medicare Part D, commonly referred to as the prescription drug benefit, is a federal program designed to provide access to prescription medications for Medicare beneficiaries. Introduced in 2003 as part of the Medicare Prescription Drug Improvement and Modernization Act, Part D came into effect in 2006. Its primary goal is to help reduce the out-of-pocket costs of prescription drugs for beneficiaries.

Unlike Parts A and B, Part D plans are offered by private insurance companies that have been approved by the Medicare program. This means beneficiaries can choose from a range of plans based on their individual needs, each with its own list of covered drugs.


Medicare Part D
Medicare Part D

In essence, Medicare Part D represents a collaborative effort between the federal government and private insurance entities, working together to ensure beneficiaries have access to affordable prescription drug coverage. Whether you’re managing chronic conditions or seeking peace of mind for potential future medication needs, Part D serves as a valuable safety net in the healthcare journey of countless Americans.

What Does Medicare Part D Cover?

Medicare Part D’s primary goal is to offer coverage for prescription medications, but the specifics of what each plan covers can vary based on the plan’s formulary. A formulary is a list of drugs that the plan covers, often categorized into different tiers based on cost. Typically, drugs on lower tiers will cost less than those on higher tiers. Most formularies have at least four tiers:

  • Tier 1: Generic drugs, which usually have the lowest copays
  • Tier 2: Preferred brand-name drugs, generally with moderate copays
  • Tier 3: Non-preferred brand-name drugs, which typically come with higher copays
  • Tier 4: Specialty drugs, which are high-cost medications and usually have the highest copays

While specific drug coverage varies from plan to plan, Medicare requires all Part D plans to cover certain categories of medications, including anticancer drugs, antidepressants, antipsychotic medications, immunosuppressants, HIV/AIDS drugs, and seizure medications. Part D plans also must cover vaccines that are not covered by Part D, like the shingles vaccine.

Some medications, even if they’re on the plan’s formulary, might have certain usage or quantity restrictions. This can include prior authorizations, quantity limits, and step therapy. Lastly, Part D plans do not cover over-the-counter drugs, weight loss or weight gain drugs, fertility drugs, or cosmetic medications.

It’s important for beneficiaries to regularly review their plan’s formulary since it can change from year to year. Additionally, if a required medication is not on the formulary, a beneficiary can request an exception or consider switching to a different Part D plan during the Annual Enrollment Period.

How Much Does Part D Cost?

Understanding the costs associated with Medicare Part D is essential for beneficiaries to budget effectively and make informed decisions about their healthcare. The costs will vary depending on the plan you have, the medications you need, and the pharmacy you use. Let’s take a closer look at the costs associated with Part D.

Monthly Premium: This is the amount you pay to have the plan, whether or not you use the coverage. If you are subject to IRMAA, the Income-Related Monthly Adjustment Amount, you will have an additional monthly fee on top of the premium.

Annual Deductible: Most Part D plans have an annual deductible, which is the amount you must pay before your plan begins to pay a portion of your prescriptions. Most plans do not apply the deductible to the first tier of coverage.

Copays and Coinsurance: After meeting the deductible, you’ll pay a portion of the drug cost. You could pay a flat amount (a copay), or a percentage of the cost (a coinsurance). The amount will vary based on the drug tier.

Enrolling in Medicare Part D

Enrolling in Medicare Part D requires careful timing and an understanding of the different enrollment periods. Whether you’re newly eligible for Medicare or you’re interested in changing your plans, understanding your enrollment options will help you know how to secure the coverage you need.

Initial Enrollment Period (IEP): This is your first opportunity to enroll in Medicare Part D. Your IEP spans seven months, starting three months before your 65th birthday.

Annual Enrollment Period (AEP): AEP runs from October 15 to December 7 each year. During this time, you can make changes to your Part D coverage. You can:

  • Enroll in a Part D plan for the first time
  • Change from one Part D plan to another
  • Disenroll from Part D altogether

Special Enrollment Period (SEP): Under specific circumstances, you might qualify for an SEP, which allows you to enroll in Part D or change your Part D plan outside of the usual enrollment windows. Common situations include moving out of your plan’s service area, losing other creditable prescription coverage, moving into or out of a nursing home, and qualifying for Extra Help.

The other thing you should know about Part D enrollment is that you can only enroll in Part D plans that are available in your area.

Medicare Part D Frequently Asked Questions

Medicare Part D is usually the most confusing part of Medicare. Our team answers many Part D questions every day. Here are a few that we get asked most often.

  1. Can I change Part D plans at any time? No. You can change your Part D plan during the Annual Enrollment Period or during a Special Enrollment Period if you qualify for one.
  2. How much does Medicare Part D pay for prescriptions? The amount Part D pays for prescriptions depends on which Part D plan you have. Your copay will depend on the deductible, the phase of coverage, and your coinsurance costs.
  3. Does Medicare have a deductible for Part D? Yes. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) sets a standard deductible each year. Plans can choose to use that deductible, or set a lower one. Some Part D plans do not have a deductible.

Find Medicare Part D Plans Near You

The decisions you make about your Medicare plans will have a profound impact on your coverage and costs. Don’t make these decisions alone. Bobby Brock Insurance has a team of Medicare advisors who will assist you during this process and make sure you choose the plan that meets your needs.

Call today to learn more about Medicare Part D plans near you.

How to Avoid 7 Costly Medicare Mistakes
How to Avoid 7 Costly Medicare Mistakes

Enter Zip-code

Enter your zip code to pull plan options available in your area.

Compare Plans

Select which Medicare plans you would like to compare in your area.

Get a Quote

Compare rates side by side plans & carriers available in your area.