En español | Part D is insurance that helps reduce the cost of prescription drugs that you take yourself, as opposed to medications that are administered in a hospital (which are usually paid for under Part A) or in a doctor’s office (Part B).
You are eligible for Part D drug coverage if you’re enrolled in either Part A or Part B (or both). But if you have “creditable” coverage from elsewhere — such as a current or former employer or union, COBRA, or the Veterans Affairs health program — you probably don’t need Part D. “Creditable” coverage means that Medicare considers it of equal or better value than Part D.
To get Part D coverage, you must enroll in a plan that Medicare approves and regulates but is run by a private insurance company. If you’re in the original Medicare program, you’d choose a “stand-alone” Part D drug plan that provides only drug coverage. If you prefer to be in a Medicare Advantage health plan, such as an HMO or PPO, you’d choose a plan that includes Part D coverage in its benefits package.
There’s no single type of Part D drug coverage. Each plan has its own costs (premiums, deductibles, copays) and formulary (list of the drugs it covers), which can change each calendar year. To find your best deal, it’s wise to compare different plans during open enrollment (Oct. 15 to Dec. 7) each year and, if you want, switch to another for the coming year.
If your income is under a certain level, you may qualify for Extra Help, a federal program that provides Part D drug coverage at low or reduced cost.
Part D is a complicated program. To learn how it works, go to AARP’s consumer guide to the program, at http://www.aarp.org/health/medicare-insurance/medicare_partD_guide/ . The second section of this guide explains Extra Help and how to apply for it.