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What if I don’t Sign Up for Medicare Part D when I Turn 65?

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Summary: Medicare Part D is optional, but can help cover your prescription drugs. There are certain times when you can sign up for it. If you delay signing up for Medicare Part D coverage, you may be faced with a late enrollment penalty.

When you enroll in Original Medicare (Medicare Part A and Part B), you may also want to decide if you want to sign up for prescription drug coverage under Part D. Since Original Medicare usually doesn’t cover medications you take at home, you have the option of signing up for Medicare Part D coverage.

Why should I sign up for Medicare Part D?

Medicare Part D is Medicare prescription drug coverage. It’s optional, but may be worth it if you take prescription drugs.

Medicare gives you a choice of two different ways you can get prescription drug coverage.

  • A stand-alone Medicare Part D prescription drug plan can work alongside your Medicare Part A and/or Part B coverage.
  • A Medicare Advantage prescription drug plan includes Medicare Part A, Part B, and Part D benefits all in one plan.

When can I sign up for Medicare Part D?

There are generally four different times when you can sign up for Medicare Part D.

You can sign up for Medicare Part D during your Medicare Initial Enrollment Period (IEP)

This is the time when you can first enroll in Original Medicare (Part A and Part B). Many people are automatically enrolled in Original Medicare during their IEP. But you typically won’t be enrolled in a Medicare prescription drug plan at this time.

For most people, the seven-month IEP begins three months before the month you turn 65, includes your birthday month, and ends three months after your birthday month.

Your IEP is also when you’re first eligible to sign up for Part D.

You can sign up for Medicare Part D during Fall Open Enrollment

You can generally sign up for Medicare Part D and make other changes during this period. Sometimes called the Annual Enrollment Period, it happens each year from October 15 to December 7. During this time, you can usually:

  • Sign up for a stand-alone Medicare Part D prescription drug plan
  • Change from one stand-alone Medicare Part D prescription drug plan to another
  • Sign up for a Medicare Advantage prescription drug plan
  • Change from one Medicare Advantage plan to another

You may be able to make other coverage changes during the AEP.

You can sign up for Medicare Part D during the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period (OEP)

If you want to get your Medicare Part D coverage through a Medicare Advantage plan, you may be able to use this enrollment period. But be aware that not every Medicare Advantage plan covers prescription drugs.

You can switch from one Medicare Advantage plan to another during the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period (OEP). For example, if you have a Medicare Advantage plan that doesn’t include prescription drug coverage, you can switch to a Medicare Advantage prescription drug plan.

The Medicare Advantage OEP runs January 1 – March 31 each year.

You can:

  • Switch Medicare Advantage plans
  • Drop your Medicare Advantage plan, return to Original Medicare, and sign up for a stand-alone Medicare Part D prescription drug plan

But you can’t:

  • Sign up for a Medicare Advantage plan unless you’re already enrolled in one and you want to switch
  • Sign up for a stand-alone Medicare Part D prescription drug plan (unless you drop your Medicare Advantage plan during this OEP and return to Original Medicare

You may be able to sign up for Medicare Part D during a Special Enrollment Period

You can also sign up for Medicare Part D during a special enrollment period, if you qualify for one. You might have a special enrollment period if any of these events occur:

  • You lose your creditable drug coverage
  • Your current Part D plan is ending its contract
  • Your current Medicare Advantage plan with prescription drug coverage is ending its contract
  • You move outside the service area for your current plan
  • You are leaving an employer where you had prescription drug coverage

If one of these events arise, you can usually enroll in a Medicare prescription drug plan promptly to avoid going without prescription drug coverage.

Penalty if you don’t sign up for Medicare Part D

Even if you don’t take medications now, if you’re at risk for health problems as you get older, you might need medications later. If you delay enrollment in Part D, you might have to pay a Part D late enrollment penalty.

If you go for 63 days or more without prescription drug coverage after your Initial Enrollment Period (IEP), that’s when you could face a Part D late enrollment penalty. Your penalty is added to your monthly premium amount.

Avoiding the Medicare Part D late enrollment penalty

One way to avoid the penalty is to sign up for Medicare Part D during your IEP. Another is to keep your creditable drug coverage, if you have it. Creditable coverage might come from a former employer, Veteran’s Affairs, TRICARE, or Indian Health Service, to name a few examples.

What else should I know about signing up for Medicare Part D?

Private insurance companies contract with Medicare to offer these plans. Your costs may vary from one plan to another. You can generally expect to pay a monthly premium, a yearly deductible, and a copayment or coinsurance amount for each medication. Some plans may have premiums as low as $0, and some plans may have no deductible to pay. One thing you can always count on is that you’ll need to continue paying your Medicare Part B premium as well.

If you are searching for a Medicare Advantage or prescription drug coverage plan, we can help. Use our handy comparison tool by entering your zip code today.

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