Before deciding whether to sign up for Medicare prescription drug coverage, you need to understand how the program works together as a whole. Grasping the big picture makes it easier to deal with the details.
Who can get Medicare drug coverage?
Anyone on Medicare (with either Part A or Part B) is entitled to drug coverage (known as Part D) regardless of income. No physical exams are required. You cannot be denied for health reasons or because you already use a lot of prescription drugs.
Do I have to sign up?
For most people, joining Part D is voluntary. However, if you now get your drugs from Medicaid, you must get them from a Medicare drug plan as soon as you become eligible for Medicare.
You won’t need to sign up if you have other drug coverage that is better than Medicare’s—for example, benefits from a current or former employer or union. (See Do You Need Medicare Part D?)
But if you don’t have other drug coverage that’s considered as good as Medicare, and you delay signing up, you’ll incur a late penalty that adds to your premiums for as long as you’re in the program, except in certain circumstances, and you’ll be able to enroll only during open enrollment at the end of the year.
What if I don’t take any prescription drugs right now?
The same sign-up rules apply. Part D is insurance—you buy it so that it will protect you if and when you need it. If you don’t need any prescription drugs at the present time, enrolling in the Part D plan with the lowest premium in your area ensures that you have coverage if you suddenly need it, but at the least cost.