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What is Medicare Part D Drug Coverage and What Does it Cover?

Medicare Part D Drug Coverage and What Does it Cover

Medicare Part D provides prescription drug coverage for Medicare beneficiaries through private insurance plans approved by Medicare. It helps pay for many of the most commonly prescribed brand name and generic drugs. Understanding what’s included in Medicare Part D and how coverage works is key to getting the medications you need at an affordable cost.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explain what Medicare Part D is, what prescription drugs are included, how much it costs, and how to choose the right Part D Plan for your needs.

What is Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Coverage?

Medicare Part D is an optional prescription drug benefit program that went into effect in 2006. Here are some key facts about Medicare Part D:

  • Provides coverage for many prescription medications
  • Run by private insurance companies approved by Medicare
  • Helps pay for both brand name and generic drugs
  • Available as stand-alone plans or included in Medicare Advantage
  • Requires enrolling in a plan and paying premiums
  • Offers different plan options and costs by insurer

Medicare Part D is the part of Medicare that covers prescription drugs. It was enacted to help Medicare beneficiaries afford the medications they need.

Part D is voluntary – you must actively enroll in a plan to receive coverage. It was designed as a privatized program with insurers competing to offer coverage options.

What Drugs Are Covered by Medicare Part D?

Medicare Part D Plans generally cover most prescription medications that Medicare beneficiaries take on an outpatient basis. Types of drugs typically covered include:

  • Brand name drugs
  • Generic drugs
  • Insulin
  • Vaccines
  • Cancer medications
  • Drugs that treat chronic conditions like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, osteoporosis, depression, and more

Each Part D Plan has its own approved drug list, called a formulary. The plan places covered drugs into different cost tiers – the higher the tier, the more you pay.

Medicare requires all Part D Plans to include a broad range of prescription medications that people with Medicare frequently need. But plans have flexibility in setting their formularies and cost tiers.

You’ll need to review a plan’s specific formulary to verify it covers your medications. An exception process exists if you need a drug not on your plan’s formulary.

How Much Does Medicare Part D Cost?

The costs for Medicare Part D coverage include:

  • Monthly premium – averages $32 per month in 2023
  • Yearly deductible – up to $505 in 2023
  • Copays or coinsurance for prescriptions
  • Coverage gap where you pay 25% of costs
  • Catastrophic coverage after you spend $7,400 out-of-pocket

You pay the plan’s monthly premium throughout the year. The deductible, copays, and coverage gap amounts apply until you reach catastrophic coverage when your out-of-pocket drug costs exceed $7,400.

Part D Plans charge different premiums and have varying deductibles. Comparing plans annually allows you to find coverage at the lowest available cost.

How Does Medicare Part D Work?

Here is an overview of how Medicare Part D prescription coverage works:

  • You enroll in a standalone Part D Plan or Medicare Advantage Plan with drug coverage
  • You pay your monthly premium to the plan
  • You pay 100% of drug costs until meeting the deductible
  • Then you pay a copay or coinsurance for each prescription filled
  • This continues until you reach the coverage gap phase
  • In the gap, you pay 25% of the drug cost
  • After your total out-of-pocket costs exceed $7,400, you enter catastrophic coverage with reduced costs

Part D covers around 75% of total medication costs on average, but your specific out-of-pocket amount depends on the medications you take. Using generic and preferred brand drugs can help minimize costs.

When to Enroll in Medicare Part D

The best time to enroll in Medicare Part D is when you first become eligible for Medicare:

  • Initial Enrollment Period – 3 months before to 3 months after turning 65
  • You can enroll in a standalone Part D Plan or Medicare Advantage Plan with prescription coverage
  • Delaying Part D enrollment results in lifelong penalties unless you have creditable coverage

After your Initial Enrollment Period, you can make changes during Medicare’s Annual Enrollment Period from October 15 to December 7 each year. Your coverage will take effect January 1.

Losing other creditable prescription drug coverage also triggers a Special Enrollment Period. This gives you two months to join a Part D Plan without penalties.

How to Choose a Medicare Part D Plan

Choosing the right Medicare Part D Plan involves:

  • Checking which plans are available in your area
  • Confirming the plan covers your medications
  • Comparing monthly premiums
  • Reviewing deductible and copay/coinsurance costs
  • Considering Extra Help for low-income subsidy
  • Consulting with a Medicare advisor or agent

Leveraging online search tools at and speaking with an expert broker simplifies the process of selecting a Part D Plan tailored to your prescription needs and budget.

Will Medicare Part D Cover Any Medication?

No – unlike Original Medicare which covers any FDA-approved drug that is medically necessary, Medicare Part D Plans have formularies that may exclude some medications.

If a plan’s formulary doesn’t include a drug you need, you can request an exception or utilize a plan’s appeals process. Or you can switch to a different Part D Medicare drug plan that does cover your medication.

So while Part D covers most common prescriptions, the specific drugs included will depend on the plan you select. Reviewing the plan’s formulary is crucial before enrolling.

Does Medicare Part D Have Out-of-Pocket Costs?

Yes, Medicare Part D has several out-of-pocket costs:

  • Monthly premiums starting around $20 per month
  • A deductible up to $505 in 2023 that you pay 100% before coverage starts
  • Copayments or coinsurance for each prescription filled
  • Coverage gap where you pay 25% of drug costs
  • A maximum of $7,400 in total out-of-pocket spending before you reach catastrophic coverage

The combination of premiums, deductible, copays, and the coverage gap means significant out-of-pocket costs with Part D. But the catastrophic coverage benefit limits your annual expenses once you surpass the $7,400 threshold.

Does Medicare Provide Any Drug Coverage On Its Own?

No – Original Medicare does not include any prescription drug coverage. To get drug coverage, you must enroll in either:

  • A standalone Medicare Part D prescription plan
  • A Medicare Advantage Plan that includes prescription coverage
  • A retiree or union drug plan that qualifies as creditable coverage

Without one of these options, you will pay 100% of medication costs out of pocket while on Medicare. Having creditable drug coverage is essential to afford prescriptions with Medicare.

Part D through private insurers offers the primary way for Medicare beneficiaries to get prescription coverage.

Key Takeaways on Medicare Part D

In summary, Medicare Part D is a voluntary prescription drug program that provides coverage for most medications Medicare beneficiaries take. While extremely helpful in affording prescriptions, it does come with costs like premiums, deductibles, and copays.

Key points about Medicare Part D:

  • Covers brand name & generic prescriptions
  • Offered through private insurers
  • Plans have formularies listing covered drugs
  • Requires paying premiums and cost sharing
  • Best to enroll when first eligible to avoid penalties
  • Compare plans annually to meet your needs and budget

Understanding how Medicare Part D works, what drugs are included, associated costs, and how to choose a plan is important to getting the most value from this coverage. Consulting an expert can help ensure you select optimal Part D coverage.

We’re Here to Help

You do not have to spend hours reading articles on the internet to get answers to your Medicare questions. Give the licensed insurance agents at Senior Health Advocates a Call at (386) 222-3030. You will get the answers you seek in a matter of minutes, with no pressure and no sales pitch. We are truly here to help.


What is Medicare Part D drug coverage?

 Medicare Part D drug coverage is a prescription drug benefit offered by Medicare. It is an optional program that provides coverage for prescription drugs.

What does Medicare Part D drug coverage cover?

 Medicare Part D drug coverage covers a wide range of prescription drugs. Each drug plan has its own formulary, which is a list of covered drugs. The formulary may include both generic and brand-name drugs.

What is a prescription drug plan?

A prescription drug plan, also known as a Part D Plan, is a private insurance plan that provides prescription drug coverage. These plans are approved by Medicare and are available to individuals who are eligible for Medicare Part A or Part B.

How do I enroll in a Medicare Part D drug plan?

 To enroll in a Medicare Part D drug plan, you can either sign up during your initial enrollment period when you first become eligible for Medicare, or you can enroll during the annual Medicare Open Enrollment period.

Do I have to pay a premium for Medicare Part D?

Yes, you will have to pay a premium for Medicare Part D drug coverage. The premium amount may vary depending on the plan you choose and your income.

Are all prescription drugs covered by Medicare Part D?

 Not all prescription drugs are covered by Medicare Part D. Each drug plan has its own formulary that determines which drugs are covered. It is important to check the formulary of the plan you are considering to see if the medications you need are covered.

Can I get Medicare drug coverage if I have both Medicare Part A and Part B?

 Yes, if you have both Medicare Part A and Part B, you are eligible to enroll in a Medicare Part D drug plan. Medicare drug coverage is separate from other parts of Medicare.

What is the low-income subsidy for Medicare Part D?

 The low-income subsidy, also known as Extra Help, is a program that helps individuals with limited income and resources pay for their Medicare Part D prescription drug costs. The program provides assistance with premiums, deductibles, and co-payments.

Are generic drugs covered by Medicare Part D?

 Yes, generic drugs are covered by Medicare Part D. In fact, generic drugs often have lower out-of-pocket costs compared to brand-name drugs.

Can I switch Medicare Part D Plans?

Yes, you can switch Medicare Part D Plans during the annual Medicare Open Enrollment period. This period typically runs from October 15 to December 7 each year.


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