AARP offers meaningful connections and free experiences close to home! Take a look.
En español | Medicare covers many of your health care expenses, but it doesn’t provide prescription drug coverage.
You have two ways to get coverage: Buy a stand-alone Part D prescription drug plan, or sign up for a Medicare Advantage plan that combines medical and drug coverage. Private insurance companies that Medicare regulates offer both types of plans. Keep in mind, you can enroll only during certain times:
Initial enrollment period, the seven-month period that begins on the first day of the month three months before the month you turn 65 and lasts for three months after the birthday month.
Open enrollment period, which runs annually from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7, with coverage beginning Jan. 1. You also can switch to a different Part D or Medicare Advantage plan during this time.
Medicare Advantage open enrollment period, which runs from Jan. 1 to March 31 each year. During this time, if you already have a Medicare Advantage plan, you can switch to another plan with prescription coverage. But if you switch to a Medicare Advantage health maintenance organization (HMO) or preferred provider organization (PPO) without drug coverage, make sure you have coverage from a retiree plan, Tricare or another option because you won’t be permitted to buy a separate Part D plan. Or you can leave Medicare Advantage and return to original Medicare and buy a stand-alone Part D plan. The changes take effect the first day of the following month.
Special enrollment period, which allows you to sign up for Part D outside of your initial enrollment period. To qualify, you need to meet certain criteria, such as the following:
To find out whether a five-star plan is available in your area, visit Medicare.gov and filter the results based on star ratings. Plans with a five-star rating are marked with a special five-star icon. You can also call 800-MEDICARE (800-633-4227) to find out if any five-star plans serve your area.
For more information about special enrollment periods, visit Medicare.gov.
You may qualify to enroll in Part D in other situations, such as if you sign up for Medicare during a general enrollment period — Jan. 1 to March 31 — because you missed your initial and special enrollment periods. If you don’t have premium-free Part A and you sign up for Part B during this time, you can get a Part D policy from April 1 to June 30. Both your Medicare and your Part D coverage will start July 1.
If you delay and don’t have other coverage, you may have to pay a late-enrollment penalty.
Updated Feb. 17, 2022
Return to Medicare Q&A main page
Find the content you are looking for by entering in search terms below.
What is Medicare?
New in 2022
What’s Not Covered
Reasons to Change Coverage
You are leaving AARP.org and going to the website of our trusted provider. The provider’s terms, conditions and policies apply. Please return to AARP.org to learn more about other benefits.
Your email address is now confirmed.
You'll start receiving the latest news, benefits, events, and programs related to AARP's mission to empower people to choose how they live as they age.
You can also manage your communication preferences by updating your account at anytime. You will be asked to register or log in.
In the next 24 hours, you will receive an email to confirm your subscription to receive emails
related to AARP volunteering. Once you confirm that subscription, you will regularly
receive communications related to AARP volunteering. In the meantime, please feel free
to search for ways to make a difference in your community at