Enrolling in Medicare is an important step for many people in protecting their health and their finances as they age. The Medicare program assists millions of seniors and certain individuals with qualifying disabilities, and without Medicare, some Americans would struggle to afford the cost of healthcare and related expenses. The Medicare program is broken down into parts, and each part covers various types of medical care to include, among others, hospital admittance and outpatient services.

Although the program was comprehensive enough at the time of its inception, over the years, the need for prescription drug coverage became a concern among an aging American population. In 2006, Medicare recipients were able to access this coverage through the introduction of Medicare Part D. These Medicare benefits deliver a low-cost option to Medicare members, and the Part D benefits can be used at retail pharmacies across the country for self-administered drugs.

When Can I Enroll in Part D?

Part D coverage is an optional part of the Medicare program, so you will need to enroll in it in order to take advantage of benefits. This is beneficial in allowing Medicare recipients to control their healthcare spending and direct their own medical choices. In most cases, you can enroll in Part D coverage within a seven-month time period that covers the months before, during and after reaching Medicare eligibility at age 65. This includes three months prior to your 65th birthday, the month of your birthday and then three months after your 65th birthday.

Failing to enroll within this time period, also known as the initial enrollment period, means that you may face a late enrollment penalty if you choose to add Part D coverage at a later date. Although this penalty is added only after adding Part D coverage following the initial enrollment period, it may stick around for the duration of your Medicare enrollment even if you choose to remove Part D coverage in the future.

You may also have the chance to change your plan during one of the special enrollment periods, including the annual open enrollment period at the end of each year. Certain other life events may trigger special enrollment periods, so you may need to work with a qualified Medicare consultant to find out your best course of action if you are eligible but and did not sign up during the initial enrollment period.

Understand Your Potential Future Needs

When deciding whether to opt for Part D coverage or make changes to an existing Part D plan, it would be wise to consult with your physician. You may not need many prescriptions now, but you may be at risk for developing certain conditions in the future that will require regular prescriptions. Forgoing Part D coverage now may put you at a disadvantage at a later date when you need these benefits the most. Only you and your doctor can make this decision, so consider the future implications of your choices now to avoid a headache down the road.

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