Prescription Drug Plans
Prescription Drug Plans Information
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What is Drug Coverage (Part D)?
Medicare prescription drug coverage is an optional benefit offered to everyone who has Medicare. If you decide not to get Medicare drug coverage when you're first eligible, you'll likely pay a late enrollment penalty if you join later, unless one of these applies. You have other creditable prescription drug coverage, or You get Extra Help. Generally, you'll pay this penalty for as long as you have Medicare prescription drug coverage.
To get Medicare drug coverage, you must join a Medicare plan that offers prescription drug coverage. Each plan can vary in cost and drugs covered.
Here are some ways to help you choose a Prescription Drug Plan. Look at drug plans that include your prescription drugs on their formulary (a list of prescription drugs covered by a drug plan). Then, compare costs. Look at drug plans offering coverage in the coverage gap, and then check with those plans to make sure they cover your drugs in the gap. Look at drug plans with no or a low deductible, or with additional coverage in the coverage gap. Look at Medicare drug plans with “tiers” that charge you nothing or low copayments for generic prescriptions. Look at Medicare drug plans with a low monthly premium for drug coverage. If you need prescription drugs in the future, all plans still must cover most drugs used by people with Medicare.
When you join a Medicare drug plan, you'll give your Medicare Number and the date your Part A and/or Part B coverage started. This information is on your Medicare card.
Each plan that offers prescription drug coverage through Medicare Part D must give at least a standard level of coverage set by Medicare. Plans can vary the list of prescription drugs they cover (called a formulary) and how they place drugs into different "tiers" on their formularies.
Most Medicare drug plans (Medicare Prescription Drug Plans and Medicare Advantage Plans with prescription drug coverage) have their own list of what drugs are covered, called a formulary. Plans include both brand-name prescription drugs and generic drug coverage. The formulary includes at least 2 drugs in the most commonly prescribed categories and classes. All Medicare drug plans generally must cover at least 2 drugs per drug category, but plans can choose which drugs covered by Part D they will offer.
The formulary might not include your specific drug. However, in most cases, a similar drug should be available. If you or your prescriber (your doctor or other health care provider who’s legally allowed to write prescriptions) believes none of the drugs on your plan’s formulary will work for your condition, you can ask for an exception.
For 2019 and beyond, drug plans offering Medicare prescription drug coverage (Part D) that meet certain requirements also can immediately remove brand name drugs from their formularies and replace them with new generic drugs, or they can change the cost or coverage rules for brand name drugs when adding new generic drugs. If you’re taking these drugs, you’ll get information about the specific changes made to generic drug coverage afterwards.
You may need to change the drug you use or pay more for it. You can also ask for an exception. Generally, using drugs on your plan’s formulary will save you money. If you use a drug that isn’t on your plan’s drug list, you’ll have to pay full price instead of a copayment or coinsurance, unless you qualify for a formulary exception. All Medicare drug plans have negotiated to get lower prices for the drugs on their drug lists, so using those drugs will generally save you money. Also, using generic drugs instead of brand-name drugs may save you money.
To lower costs, many plans offering prescription drug coverage place drugs into different “tiers” on their formularies. Each plan can divide its tiers in different ways. Each tier costs a different amount. Generally, a drug in a lower tier will cost you less than a drug in a higher tier.
In some cases, if your drug is in a higher (more expensive) tier and your prescriber thinks you need that drug instead of a similar drug on a lower tier, you can file an exception and ask your plan for a lower copayment.
If you meet certain income and resource limits, you may qualify for a program called Extra Help from Medicare to pay the prescription costs, premiums, deductibles, and coinsurance of Medicare prescription drug coverage.