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Medicare Part D Deadline Looms

Kealey Bultena

The deadline looms for seniors who want insurance plans to help cover the cost of prescription drugs. Monday is the last day to enroll in or change Medicare Part D insurance plans. One expert says seniors should find out whether they can benefit from prescription drug coverage, even if they’re already enrolled.

Medicare Part D plans are private health insurance from private companies that are subsidized by the federal government. That means seniors pay for the drug plans, but they don’t have to cover the full cost of the insurance out of pocket.

Mike Fierberg is a spokesperson for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid.

“It’s a little hard to believe now looking back, but until about 10 years ago, Medicare didn’t cover prescription drugs at all,” Fierberg says. “Prescription drugs are such an important element of good health care – especially for beneficiaries over the age of 65, the vast majority of whom take one or more medications daily – that it’s really important to get some help in paying for them, because, as we all know, most of these medications can be very, very expensive.”

Fierberg says even people who already have Medicare Part D plans should compare their insurance to other options. He says Medicare.gov allows people to enter prescription names, dosages, and frequencies to discover which plan covers all of a person’s medicines at the lowest price.

“The point is the system will figure out how much each available plan in South Dakota is going to cost, giving consideration to the premium, the deductible, and the co-pays,” Fierberg says. “You will be asked to specify a couple of pharmacies where you like to get your prescriptions, and the system will also tell you if you can save money by doing mail order instead, which in most cases you can. Then it will rank all of the available plans with the cheapest overall cost at the top.”

Fierberg says people already enrolled in Part D plans will see their current coverage cost at the top of the page, so they can easily see whether an insurance switch can cover their medicines and save them money.

Coverage for new insurance customers and for seniors who change their plans starts January 1st. But they must enroll in Medicare Part D coverage by Monday for that to happen.

Visit Medicare.gov to log in and enroll or compare plans. You can also call 1-800-Medicare (1-800-633-4227) for help over the phone.