Use Medicare’s Plan Finder to Choose, Enroll in Part D
How to compare prescription drug plans online
After you enroll in Medicare, you need to think about your prescription drug coverage.
Medicare doesn’t automatically cover prescription drugs. Unless you have other comparable drug coverage — from an employer, a former employer or Tricare — you’ll need to sign up for coverage within a certain time. If you miss your deadline, you’ll have to pay a late enrollment penalty.
The average Medicare beneficiary has 24 stand-alone Medicare Part D plans to choose from. When choosing a Part D plan, look at premiums as well as coverage for your prescriptions. A plan with low premiums may cost you more by the end of the year if it charges high copayments for your medications.
But Part D plans can change their costs and covered drugs annually. So it’s a good idea to compare your options during open enrollment every year, which runs Oct. 15 to Dec. 7 for new coverage starting Jan. 1.
7 steps to sign up for a Part D plan
The best way to compare Part D plans offered in your area is to use Medicare’s Plan Finder tool. Here’s a step-by-step guide.
One caveat: If you take insulin, call 800-MEDICARE (800-633-4227) or contact your State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) rather than using the Plan Finder for 2023. A new law that capped insulin copays at $35 per month was signed after the premiums and copays were loaded into the Plan Finder, and this tool may not have the most up-to-date information about the plans’ insulin costs.
1. You have two options: Use your account or Continue without logging in. Either log in to your Online Medicare account or go to the second section and enter your zip code. It may also ask you to select your county. Hit Continue | Medicare Drug Plan Part D | Find Plans.
2. Indicate if you get help with your medical expenses. If you’re not sure, you can find out by logging into your Medicare account.
3. If you don’t receive help, you’ll be asked if you want to see your drug costs when you compare plans. Click Yes so you can get a sense of how much you would spend with each plan.
4. Enter the names of your medications. Be sure to include ones you take regularly so you’ll get a good estimate of ongoing costs.
You’ll also need to select the dosage and quantity, and indicate how frequently you need to refill your prescriptions. To add another medication, click Add Another Drug. When you’re finished, click Done Adding Drugs.
5. Next, you’ll choose up to five pharmacies to fill your prescriptions. Many plans charge lower copayments for preferred pharmacies.
You can see how plans work with your pharmacies and copayments for each plan. Enter your pharmacy names or search by your address or zip code. When you’re finished selecting pharmacies, click Done.
6. You’ll see a list of drug plans in your area. You can sort the plans in three ways: Lowest drug + Premium cost, the default; Lowest yearly drug deductible; and Lowest monthly premium. Compare plans by looking at each plan’s lowest drug and premium costs.
Compare premiums as well as costs for your covered drugs. Click the Plan Details button for more information, including a monthly estimate of what you’ll pay for your medications.
Make sure your prescriptions are part of a plan’s formulary — the list of regularly covered drugs. Use this time to see if any of your medications requires prior authorization before you purchase it.
7. To sign up for a Part D plan, click Enroll. You’ll need your Medicare number and the date your Part A and B coverage began. You may also be able to enroll with an insurance agent or by calling 800-MEDICARE (800-633-4227).
To sign up directly with the insurance company, click Plan Details for the plan’s phone number and website. You can also request an application and mail it. An insurance agent may be able to help you enroll.
For help signing up for a Part D plan, contact your State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP).
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How to pay for Part D
After you’ve signed up, you’ll pay monthly Part D premiums to the insurance company. You may either receive bills or sign up for automatic payments. You may also be able to request that your premium be deducted from your monthly Social Security or Railroad Retirement Board payment.
Medicare beneficiaries with low incomes and few assets may qualify for the federal Extra Help program, which provides financial assistance to pay for Part D premiums, deductibles and copayments.
If your income is high, you may have to pay more for Part D. With an adjusted gross income of more than $97,000 if single and $194,000 if married filing jointly, you’ll have to pay a high-income surcharge. This could add $12.20 to $76.40 to your monthly Part D premiums in 2023. You’ll pay the surcharge to Medicare.
Kimberly Lankford is a contributing writer who covers personal finance and Medicare. She previously wrote for Kiplinger's Personal Finance Magazine, and her articles have also appeared in U.S. News & World Report, The Washington Post and the Boston Globe. She received the personal finance Best in Business award from the Society of American Business Editors and Writers.