If you are a resident of Arkansas and in need of prescription drugs, you might want to consider Medicare’s Part D prescription drug plan. There are currently 25 Part D plans available from 14 health insurance providers. First you’ll need to sign up for Original Medicare Part A or Part B. Once you’re enrolled, you’ll need to submit a Part D application, usually via the website of the plan you’d like to join. Typically there is a paper enrollment form requirement as well. It is recommended that you enroll in Medicare’s Part D drug plan as soon as possible after your original Medicare enrollment. If you delay, you may be subject to both late enrollment penalties and progressively higher premium fees.
Medicare Part D vs. Medicare Advantage
Medicare Part D is similar to Medicare Advantage (also known as Medicare Part C) in some respects. Both programs are administered by third-party health insurance providers under the direction of the United States federal government. Both programs cover prescription drugs, although Medicare Advantage may cover additional insurance items whereas Medicare Part D focuses exclusively on prescription drugs.
While the two programs share some similarities, they differ substantially in terms of pricing, availability, and drug coverage options. Medicare Advantage typically offers drug coverage as part of its overall package (which also includes the services provided by Original Medicare Parts A and B). Part D, on the other hand, is a supplementary package designed to work with Parts A and B.
You must consider your coverage and cost options carefully when dealing with Medicare Advantage or Medicare Part D. For example, if you are enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan but you decide that a Part D plan will better meet your prescription drug needs, enrolling in Part D may nullify your Advantage plan. This would mean that you default back to Original Medicare Part A and Part B coverage, which may offer less coverage or more expensive co-payments than what you were receiving with your Advantage plan. If in doubt, you should always speak directly with your Advantage plan provider as well as the Plan D provider from whom you intend to purchase prescription drug coverage.
When to sign up
Medicare Part D features three enrollment windows. The first is known as the Initial Enrollment Period, and it lasts for seven months beginning three months prior to your initial Medicare eligibility and ending three months after your initial eligibility. Your initial eligibility is determined by your birth month (link to article). This is the longest Part D enrollment period, and it is highly recommended that you take advantage of it in order to avoid possible late enrollment fees.
If you miss the Initial Enrollment Period, you can sign up during the Annual Election Period, which begins on October 15th and runs through December 7th each year.
Finally, Medicare offers a Special Election Period that may occur at any time during the calendar year. As the name implies, the Special Election Period exists to help those with extenuating circumstances, such as losing their prior drug coverage.
What are my choices?
Keep in mind that the services listed in the table above are provided in all Arkansas counties. Your county of residence may have additional services or plans, so be sure to contact them directly for more information.
Plans are subject to change as contracts are finalized.
Includes contracts/plans as of April 22, 2016. The data does not reflect information for employer-sponsored plans, Part B-only plans, or plans not offering a Part D drug benefit.