Not all Medicare Part D plans are the same. Plans may differ based on their networks of pharmacies, costs, or their formularies—the lists of covered prescription drugs. If you’re not happy with your plan, you may be able to switch, but only during certain times throughout the year. Read on to learn more about Medicare Part D enrollment periods and how to change your plan.
If you are eligible for Medicare Part A and Part B (also called Original Medicare), you are also eligible for a Part D prescription drug plan. But you can only enroll during certain periods of the year. Your first opportunity is when you qualify for Medicare, or your Medicare Initial Enrollment Period (IEP). You can enroll in a Part D plan in the 3 months before you turn 65, the month of your 65th birthday or 3 months after.1 But there are other periods throughout the year where you may be able to change your Part D plan.
Open enrollment period
Your Medicare Annual Enrollment Period (AEP), sometimes called the Fall Open Enrollment Period, runs from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7 each year. During this time, you may make changes to your Part D plan or switch to a new one. Any changes you make will take effect on Jan. 1 of the next year.2
Medicare Advantage enrollment period
There is also a yearly enrollment period only for Medicare Advantage (MA) and Medicare Advantage prescription drug (MAPD) plan members, the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period (MA OEP). This takes place from Jan. 1 to March 31 every year. You may switch, drop or make changes to your Part D plan during this time. Any changes you make will take effect the first day of the following month after your current plan processes your request.3
Special enrollment period
You could also drop, switch or make changes to a Medicare Part D plan after certain life events. This opportunity to change plans is called a Special Enrollment Period (SEP). There are several conditions that may qualify you for an SEP, including loss of current drug coverage or moving outside your plan’s service area. There are many different events that could trigger an SEP. See Medicare.gov’s list of qualifying life events, along with details on how to change your Part D plan.4
Since Medicare Part D prescription drug plans may differ, it’s a good idea to shop for the right plan that suits your needs. Medicare.gov offers a simple Part D plan comparison tool to help you find the plan that works for you.
Many Medicare Advantage plans (Part C) include Part D prescription drug coverage. If you are already enrolled in Medicare Part A and Part B, you may qualify for Medicare Advantage.5
Some Medicare Advantage plans may offer other benefits beyond Original Medicare. See Humana’s Medicare Advantage plans to find one that may work for you and see if you’re eligible to enroll.
If you are within the eligible enrollment periods for Medicare Part D, you can enroll in a new prescription drug plan online. You won’t need to cancel your old plan since your old coverage will stop once your new Medicare drug plan begins. Your new plan should send you a letter telling when your new drug coverage starts. Make sure you switch plans as soon as you can within your enrollment period. This may help ensure that you get your membership card for your new plan by the time your new coverage begins.6
One Medicare Part D plan may be different from the next. The pharmacy networks, list of covered drugs and costs can vary. Before you enroll in Medicare Part D or Medicare Advantage, compare plans and search for nearby pharmacies to find choose the prescription drug coverage that meets your needs.