When to Enroll for Part D Coverage

Medicare Prescription Drug Plans

What is the Annual Election Period for Medicare Prescription Drug Plans?

The Annual Election Period is the time of year in which you can join, drop, or switch Part D plans. The 2010 Annual Election Period begins on November 15 and ends on December 31, 2010. If you do not enroll/switch by December 31, 2010, you may not be eligible until the next Annual Election Period in 2011, which will be October 15 through December 7, 2011.

From January 1 to February 14, 2011, beneficiaries enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans will be allowed to sign up for a stand-alone Part D plan if they drop out of their Advantage plan and return to Original Medicare during this time period.

Note regarding “Open Enrollment”: In past years, Medicare Advantage (MA) enrollees had an opportunity to make changes to their coverage from January 1 – March 31. That Open Enrollment Period will be eliminated in 2011. Individuals with a Medicare Advantage plan may elect to disenroll from their MA plan during the Medicare Advantage Disenrollment Period from January 1 through February 14 in order to return to Original Medicare. These individuals may enroll in a Part D plan during this time frame only.

If I enroll during this time, when does my Part D coverage begin?

If you enroll during the Annual Election Period your Medicare Part D coverage will begin on the following January 1 and will continue for the entire year.

Is there any other enrollment time?

You may enroll in a Part D plan during your Initial Enrollment Period, during the Medicare Advantage Disenrollment Period (if you meet those qualifications), or during a Special Enrollment Period due to special circumstances.

Do I need to enroll in a Medicare Part D plan?

Yes, it is important to enroll in a Part D plan when you are first eligible. If you don’t join a Medicare drug plan when you were first eligible for Medicare, and you didn’t have other creditable prescription drug coverage, or you didn’t have Medicare prescription drug coverage or other creditable prescription drug coverage for 63 days or more in a row, you will receive a late enrollment penalty.

If you do not enroll in a Medicare Part D plan during your initial enrollment period, and then decide to enroll later, the Medicare Part D program may add a 1% per month increase in your Part D premium. For example, it you decide to enroll 7 months after your initial enrollment period, then your premium could increase by 7 percent.

Do I still need to enroll if I do not take any medications?

Yes, even if you do not take any medications currently, you should still enroll in a Medicare Part D plan as soon as you are eligible. You can enroll in the Medicare Part D plan with the lowest premium. You will be covered if/when your needs change, and by joining a Part D plan when you are initially eligible, you will avoid the extra premium cost that will be added if you decide to enroll later.