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Do I need Medicare Part D drug coverage if I take no prescription drugs, or only the occasional one?

En español | Part D is insurance, just like home or auto insurance. You pay premiums to protect yourself from the high costs of fire and accidents in the future, even if you never expect to make a claim. Part D plays a similar role: It’s there if and when you need it. The difference is that as you get older your chances of needing prescription drugs are far higher than the chances of totaling your car or burning down your home.

If you have no comparable drug coverage from elsewhere (such as from an employer, COBRA, retiree benefits or the Veterans Affairs health system) and if you don’t enroll in a Part D plan when you’re first eligible, you risk permanent late penalties when you do finally sign up.

But the real cost of failing to sign up is being without drug coverage. You cannot foresee when you might fall victim to some serious illness or injury that requires expensive drugs to treat. (Some drugs these days cost thousands of dollars a month.) And if that should happen, you can’t get immediate coverage from Part D.  Instead, you’d have to wait until the next annual open enrollment period (Oct. 15 to Dec. 7) and coverage wouldn’t begin until Jan. 1.

Still, when you take no or very few medications, paying monthly premiums to a Part D drug plan can seem like a waste of money. So you may want to consider a compromise: Pick the Part D plan with the lowest premium in your area. That way, you get the protection of coverage, but at the least cost.

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