| Mon, Sep 19, 2011 @ 09:00 AM

When Can I Join a Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Plan?

Posted by Medicare Made Clear

Medicare has three enrollment periods during which you can sign up for Part D prescription drug coverage.Medicare has three enrollment periods during which you can sign up for Part D prescription drug coverage. Each enrollment period serves a specific purpose and population.

Initial Enrollment Period

Your Initial Enrollment Period (IEP) is your first opportunity to enroll in Medicare, unless you have a disability or other qualifying exception that allows you to enroll earlier. Your IEP begins three months before the month of your 65th birthday and ends three months afterward.

Most people are automatically enrolled in Original Medicare Part A and Part B during their IEP. You only have to decide whether you want to keep Part B and pay its premium or not. Part B covers doctor and outpatient care, and Part A covers inpatient (hospital) care.

To get prescription drug coverage during your IEP, you can:

To be eligible for either type of plan, you must be enrolled in Original Medicare Parts A and B and pay your Part B premium.

It’s important to decide early whether or not you want Part D prescription drug coverage. If you don’t sign up for it when you first become eligible, you may have to pay a penalty to add it later. You can get more information about this in Medicare’s publication “Understanding Medicare Enrollment Periods.”

Annual Enrollment Period

The Annual Enrollment Period (AEP) is the time when current beneficiaries can choose to make changes to their existing Medicare coverage, including adding or changing prescription drug coverage.

AEP is held every year. This year, it starts on October 15 and ends on December 7. Plan changes are effective on January 1, 2012. If you want to make changes in your prescription drug coverage during AEP, you can:

  • Switch from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan that includes prescription drug coverage.
  • Switch from a Medicare Advantage plan without drug coverage to one that includes it.
  • Switch from one prescription drug plan to a different prescription drug plan.
  • Join a prescription drug plan to add to Original Medicare Part A and Part B.

If you are considering a Medicare Advantage plan, you may want to look at all the coverage and costs. Many offer drug coverage for no additional premium and include additional benefits such as vision, dental, hearing and wellness care.

Medicare Advantage Disenrollment Period

The Medicare Advantage Disenrollment Period (MADP) provides an opportunity outside of AEP for current Medicare Advantage plan members to make certain changes to their Medicare coverage.

MADP is January 1 through February 14 every year. During MADP:

  • You can leave your Medicare Advantage plan and return to Original Medicare.
  • You can request enrollment in a Part D prescription drug plan to add to Original Medicare, if you are also leaving a Medicare Advantage plan during this time.

If the Medicare Advantage plan you’re leaving includes drug coverage, then you will be automatically disenrolled from that plan when you submit a request to enroll in a separate prescription drug plan. If you’re leaving a Medicare Advantage plan that does not include drug coverage, then you will have to actively disenroll from that plan. Changes you make during MADP go into effect the first day of the month after the plan sponsor receives your request.

One Additional Chance

The Medicare General Enrollment Period (GEP) is January 1 – March 31 each year. This is another chance for people who did not sign up for Medicare during their IEP to do so. If you sign up for Part B during the GEP, then you can purchase a prescription drug plan from April 1 – June 30 of that year. You may be charged payment penalties, depending on the date of your IEP.

For more information contact the Medicare helpline 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227), TTY 1-877-486-2048. You can also contact UnitedHealthcare® Medicare Made Clear to learn more at 1-877-619-5582, TTY 711, 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. local time, seven days a week.

Resources:

Understanding Medicare Enrollment Periods – Medicare.gov

Things to Think About When You Compare Medicare Drug Coverage – Medicare.gov

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