When was Medicare Part D first offered as a prescription drug benefit?

Medicare Part D is a federal program designed to provide greater access to prescription drugs for Medicare beneficiaries. It was enacted as part of the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003, and went into effect on January 1, 2006.

As a result of this program, everyone with Medicare, regardless of income, health status, or prescription drug usage, now has access to prescription drug coverage.

What is Medicare Part D?
Medicare Part D is a prescription drug benefit for everyone with Medicare. This coverage may help lower prescription drug costs and help to protect against higher costs in the future.

Who is eligible for Medicare Part D?
Anyone who is eligible for Medicare Part A (whether actually enrolled or not) or anyone who is currently enrolled in Medicare Part B may join Medicare Part D. Enrollment is voluntary, except for people who also receive benefits from Medicaid (Medi-Cal in California). If a person qualifies for Medicaid, the government automatically enrolls him/her in a Medicare Part D plan through which he/she will receive prescription drug coverage.


When is enrollment?
The annual enrollment period begins October 7 and remains open through December 15. The open enrollment period is the only time during the year most people with Medicare are allowed to make a change in their health and prescription drug plans. It's also an opportunity for those not yet enrolled in a Part D plan to enroll for the first time.

How do I know if Part D is right for me?
Seniors should review their plan annually. During the review process, seniors are encouraged to compare alternatives and choose the option that best suits their needs. There are affordable drug benefit plans available in all 50 states and there are many ways to learn more about the plans. Beneficiaries can review their current plan and compare it to others on the Medicare.gov site.

How do I enroll?
To receive Medicare drug coverage, beneficiaries must join a plan that is run by an insurance company or other private company approved by Medicare. To enroll, call 1-800-MEDICARE. TTY users should call 1-877-486-2048.

When is the best time to enroll in Medicare Part D?
The best time to enroll in Medicare Part D is when the senior is first eligible for Medicare. Signing up upon eligibility will save the beneficiary from having to pay a penalty fee.

Enroll as early as possible -- the earlier the better -- to avoid any issues at the pharmacy counter in January.


How much will Part D cost?
Plans vary in costs and drugs covered. If the beneficiary joins a Medicare drug plan, the costs will include a monthly premium, deductable and a co-payment. If the beneficiary does not sign up upon eligibility and decides to enroll at a later date, a penalty fee may be incurred. Beneficiaries with limited income and resources may qualify for extra help with paying Part D costs.

What if I need help paying for my Part D costs?
Beneficiaries with limited income or resources may qualify for extra help with prescription drug costs. For information about extra help with prescription drug costs and instructions on how to apply, visit the Social Security Web site or call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY users should call 1-800-325-0778).

For more information call 1-800-MEDICARE 1-800-633-4227 or visit Medicare.gov to get the most current information. TTY users should call 1-877-486-2048.

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