If you are looking for help when it comes to affording your prescription drug costs, Medicare’s Part D program can probably help. If you live in the state of Illinois, you can select from 25 different Part D plans offered by 14 different health insurance providers. Enrolling in Medicare Part D can be a time-consuming process, but it’s also usually worth it since prescription drug prices continue to rise. In order to take advantage of Medicare Part D savings, you’ll first need to be enrolled in Original Medicare Part A or Part B. Once you are enrolled, you’ll need to obtain a Part D application form, usually from the website of the insurance company from whom you plan to purchase services. You can also call the company and obtain a traditional paper application. Be sure to fill the application out in a timely manner to avoid potential late fees.
Medicare Part D vs. Medicare Advantage
If you have Medicare Advantage (also called Medicare Part C) instead of Original Medicare Part A and Part B, there are some additional factors to consider. While Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D share some similarities (both cover prescription drugs, though Part D does so exclusively while Advantage may offer drug coverage in addition to its other coverages), there are differences in the amount of coverage, its cost, and its availability in your area. Medicare Advantage is in some respects a replacement for Medicare Part A and Part B, whereas Part D only focuses on prescription drugs.
Additionally, enrollment in Part D may void your existing Medicare Advantage coverage, which would then force you to return to Original Medicare Part A and Part B for your hospital and general health coverage. Be sure to consult with the administrator of both your Medicare Advantage plan and your proposed Part D prescription drug plan before you make any policy changes. Failure to do so might invalidate some or all of your health insurance coverage.
When to sign up
Medicare’s enrollment processes can be confusing, but for simplicity’s sake, think of them as three possible time frames. The Initial Enrollment Period is the one you should aim for, and since it lasts for seven months, you should have plenty of time. The seven-month period is staggered around the date of your Original Medicare eligibility, which is itself based on the month you were born. The Part D prescription drug Initial Enrollment Period starts three months before your Original Medicare eligibility and ends four months after it.
If you miss the initial seven-month window, you can sign up for Part D during the Annual Election Period which begins on October 15th and concludes on December 7th of each calendar year. If you miss the Annual Election Period, you may be able to sign up for Part D during a Special Election Period. These periods happen at various times throughout the year at Medicare’s discretion. They are designed to offer enrollment opportunities to people with hardships such as the loss of previous insurance. It is in your best interest to enroll in Part during on the prior two periods. Failure to do so could result in an audit of your existing health conditions and increased monthly premium charges.
What are my choices?
The Medicare Part D services listed in the table above are provided in all Illinois counties. Your particular county may feature additional plans or services. Contact your local Medicare office for further 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.