If you are eligible for Medicare now, then you can enroll in one of the Medicare Part D plans available in your state. This includes people ages 65 and older who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents. People qualifying for Medicare due to a disability, End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD), or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s Disease), also qualify.
Part D plan enrollment is 100% voluntary. In most cases you will pay an additional monthly premium for prescription coverage. If you already have coverage, you can wait to join a PDP, but do your homework. If the prescription drug coverage you have now is not as good as Medicare Plan D coverage (credible coverage) you may have to pay Medicare’s penalty for joining late.
Before you can enroll in a Medicare Prescription Drug Plan or a Medicare Advantage Plan, you will need to have both Medicare Part A and Part B. Plus, you must reside in the service area of the plan you want to join. Plans are regional, not nation-wide.
When Can I Enroll In A Medicare Part D Plan?
You can enroll in a Medicare Part D Plan as soon as you are first eligible. You have a period of 7 months called your Initial Enrollment Period (IEP). Your IEP starts three months before the month you turn 65 to three months after your birth month. So, if you turn 65 in November, your IEP starts in August and ends in February.
If you have Medicare due to a disability the timing is a little different. In this case you can enroll in a PDP three months before and three months after your 25th month of disability payments from Social Security.
There is also an Annual Enrollment Period (AEP) for Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D. Open enrollment for Medicare starts on 15 October and runs through 7 December. These dates are not affected by Obamacare. When you join or switch plans during AEP, your coverage begins on 1 January the following year.
Please note that if you qualify for the SSI Extra Help program you can enroll in a Part D Plan anytime. You don’t have to wait until open enrollment.