When Can I Change My Part D Plan?

By Medicare Benefits - September 17, 2020

People of any age without drug coverage may tell you that an unexpected need for medications can lead to expensive medical bills. Medicare recipients may be at a higher risk for chronic medical conditions or illnesses that require regular prescription medication. Medicare Part D can help cover the costs of prescriptions ordered by your physician to help improve or maintain your health.

Although Part D is beneficial to many Medicare recipients, it is optional coverage. Most people sign up for a Prescription Drug Plan (PDP) or Medicare Advantage plan with prescription drug coverage (MA-PD) when they are first eligible for Medicare to avoid late enrollment penalties.

The drug coverage you choose when you are first eligible might not continue to meet your needs as your health or budget changes. You’ll be able to make changes to your Part D plan at different times throughout the year.

Switching Part D Plans
If you choose to enroll in Part D coverage, you will have the chance to switch drug plans during the Annual Election Period (AEP). AEP begins October 15 and lasts until December 7 each year and allows you to change your drug coverage. During this time, you can:

  • Switch from one Medicare Advantage plan (with or without prescription drug coverage) to another Medicare Advantage plan (with or without prescription drug coverage)
  • Switch from one Prescription Drug Plan (PDP) to another PDP
  • Drop your Medicare Advantage plan and revert to Original Medicare; at this time, you can enroll in a stand-alone Prescription Drug Plan

Another way to make changes to a Part D plan is through a Special Enrollment Period. Unlike AEP, a Special Enrollment Period is reserved for individuals who have experienced a qualifying life event. There’s a wide range of reasons you may qualify, but they may include moving out of a plan’s service area, or ending employment and losing your group health insurance with creditable drug coverage. If you become eligible for Medicaid or your plan loses their contract with Medicare, you may also qualify for an SEP.

Comparing Drug Plans

When you compare drug plans, make sure you check a plan’s formulary, or list of covered drugs, especially if you currently rely on certain medications. Each drug plan’s tiers of pricing may differ, as well. Within each plan, your prices will be based on if you buy generic or brand name drugs, if you use a mail order pharmacy, or if you visit a pharmacy within the plan’s network.

Before enrolling in a new drug plan, review the options in your area and find the one that’s right for you.

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