If you live in South Carolina and you’re looking for help with your prescription drug costs, you may be looking into Medicare Part D. In 2016, 24 different South Carolina healthcare providers offer a total of 12 different Medicare Part D plans in conjunction with the federal government. To qualify for one of these plans, the first thing you have to do is make sure that you’re enrolled in Original Medicare Part A and Part B. Then you may apply to the Part D plan of your choice, either in person at the provider office or online if the company offers a web-based application.

Be sure to apply as soon as possible so that you avoid possible late fees, health audits that may affect your ability to secure insurance, and higher monthly premium costs.

Medicare Part D vs. Medicare Advantage

Some Medicare Advantage plans also offer prescription drug coverage. Advantage, sometimes known as Medicare Part C, typically replaces Original Medicare Part A and Part B coverage, in addition to providing extra services including prescription drugs. Part D, though, focuses exclusively on prescription drug coverage. As costs vary widely, you’ll need to do a bit of research to determine which plan fits your individual needs and budget. It’s also worth noting that some Advantage plans do not mix with Part D plans. In some cases, enrolling in a Part D plan when you’re already covered by Advantage could negate your Advantage plan, which will then default you back to Original Medicare Part A and Part B.

Be sure to consult with your health care plan administrator before making any changes to your plan. Failure to do so could result in loss of coverage and benefits.

When to sign up

You have three opportunities to sign up for a Medicare Part D plan. You should take the first opportunity, which is called the Initial Enrollment Period. This period starts three months prior to your Original Medicare eligibility date and concludes four months past this date. If you miss this period, you can still enroll during the Annual Election period, which happens every calendar year between October 15th and December 7th.

If you miss both the Initial Enrollment Period and the Annual Election Period, you’re stuck with waiting for Medicare to open up one of its Special Election Periods. These periods are typically offered to help people with hardships such as the loss of prior insurance coverage. If you delay and have to enroll during a Special Election Period, you may be subject to health audits, late fees, and/or higher monthly premium fees that constantly increase over the life of your insurance plan.

What are my choices?

The Medicare Part D services listed in the preceding table are provided in all South Carolina counties. Your county of residence may provide additional plans and services. Contact your local Medicare office for additional details.

Source: CMS.gov

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.

by Lindsay Malzone, Lindsay Malzone is the Medicare expert for Medigap.com. She's been contributing to many well-known publications as an industry expert since 2017. Her passion is educating Medicare beneficiaries on all their supplemental Medicare options so they can make an informed decision on their healthcare coverage.