What is Medicare Part D?

The advancements in medicine in the last century has resulted in people living longer. As they age, many experience various ailments and have prescription medicine prescribed to them by their physicians to help with their symptoms. For people over 65 who maintain their health by relying on medication, these prescriptions can be somewhat costly, making them out of reach for some.

Established in 2006, the federal program Medicare introduced a new element to its benefits to address this issue. It is the Medicare Prescription Drug Coverage Plan, also identified as Medicare Part D, which provides prescription drug insurance for anybody who qualifies. Receiving coverage from Medicare Part D is not automatic, one must first meet certain criteria and then fill out the necessary application in order to join a Medicare drug plan.

An individual must be a Medicare recipient, to become eligible. For those receiving benefits, there are two separate types of private plans, the Medicare Prescription Drug Plans and the Medicare Advantage Plans.

If a person has Medicare Part A or Medicare Part B, then they qualify only for the Medicare Prescription Drug Plan. The Prescription Drug Plan is for those with the conventional Medicare plan. It only covers prescriptions.

Medicare Advantage Plans are similar to an HMO or a PPO medical plan. There are several providers to choose from for sign up. It is best to do your homework on these companies and evaluate all your current or immediate future needs. An online tool is available to make this task easier. Also, know, if an individual has Medicare Part A and Medicare Part B, then they qualify for both the Medicare Prescription Drug Plan and the Medicare Advantage Plan. So one should take all these facts into consideration when making a final decision.

It is said that "enrolling in prescription drug coverage is optional". This is true unless an individual is currently getting their drugs through the Medicaid program. Enrollment in either program takes place from November 15 to December 31. Then one must remain with their chosen provider for a year because they have entered into a contract. Beginning in the year 2011 the enrollment period will change to October 1 to December 7 of each year.

Besides the 27.6 million beneficiaries, Medicare expects for many more Americans to take advantage of this plan in years to come, as the costs of prescription medicine continues to rise.