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Do I have to join a Medicare Part D prescription drug plan?

En español | Part D is voluntary, so you are not forced to sign up. You may not need it anyway if you have drug coverage from elsewhere that is “creditable” — meaning Medicare considers it to be the same or better value than Part D. This coverage could come from an employer or union, retiree benefits, COBRA or the Veterans Affairs health program — all of which must by law tell you whether it is creditable

But without such alternative coverage, you need to consider the consequences of failing to join a Part D drug plan when you’re first eligible: 

  • You would have no coverage for prescription drugs, and if you suddenly needed them you wouldn’t be able to get Part D immediately. You’d have to wait for the next annual open enrollment period, which runs from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7 each year, with coverage beginning Jan. 1. 
  • You would be liable for late penalties, based on the number of months you had been without Part D or other creditable drug coverage since you turned 65. These penalties take the form of surcharges that are added to your Part D plan premiums for as long as you remain in the Part D program. 

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