When can I choose a Prescription Drug Plan (Medicare Part D Enrollment Period)?

Jun 18, 2020

Medicare Part D drug plans are available for enrollment by Medicare beneficiaries during designated enrollment periods.  During these specific enrollment periods, recipients can select a drug plan for the first time or make changes to their existing plan. Medicare Part D drug plans are available to individuals alongside a Medicare Part A or Part B plan. 

There are four specific times when Medicare Part D enrollment can occur:

1. Initial Enrollment Period (IEP)

The initial enrollment period is your first opportunity to enroll in a Medicare prescription drug plan.  The timeframe for enrollment during IEP is seven months.  The seven-month window begins three months prior to your 65th birthday, your birthday month, and ends three months after your birthday.

2. Annual Enrollment Period (AEP)
The annual enrollment period for Medicare runs from October 15th through December 7th each year. Coverage for plans chosen during this time-frame begins on January 1st of the following year.  During AEP you can:

  • Enroll in a Medicare drug plan
  • Disenroll in a Medicare drug plan
  • Change a Medicare drug plan
  • Switch from a Medicare Advantage plan that includes prescription drug coverage to a Medicare Advantage plan that doesn’t

3. Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period

The Medicare Advantage open enrollment period runs from January 1st through March 31 each year.  During this time period, you can switch Medicare Advantage plans with our without drug coverage.  You can also switch from a Medicare Advantage plan to Original Medicare and add a stand-alone prescription drug plan.  However, during this time, you won’t be able to switch from original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan, join a stand-alone prescription drug plan if enrolled in original Medicare, or switch Medicare drug plans.

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4. Special Enrollment Period (SEP)

The special enrollment period allows for Medicare Part D enrollment under specific individual circumstances. According to Medicare.gov, you are eligible for a special enrollment window if:

  • You change where you live.

  • You lose your current coverage.
  • You have a chance to get other coverage.
  • Your plan changes its contract with Medicare.
  • If you qualify for Extra Help.
  • Other special situations – Contact a qualified agent to find out if your situation applies for a SEP.

Is there a Medicare Part D Late Enrollment Penalty?

Yes. If you fail to signup for a prescription drug plan during one of the enrollment periods and you don’t have creditable prescription drug coverage, you will be liable for late penalties.  The late enrollment penalty is an amount added to your Medicare Part D monthly premium and is calculated based on how long you went without coverage. 

Lastly, it is important to note that Medicare Part D enrollment is only available during the specified enrollment periods above.  You will not be able to signup if you need medication, no matter how serious the medical condition is that requires them. 

Need Help Choosing a Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Plan?


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