Many people who are enrolled in Medicare have the costs of their prescription drugs partially covered by a Medicare Part D prescription drug plan or by a Medicare Advantage plan that covers drugs. Every year, you have a chance to make changes for the following year to your Medicare Part D prescription drug plan or to your Medicare Advantage plan.
Part D drug coverage is not like general Medicare, for which you can sign up once and keep the same plan for the rest of your life. Insurance companies can change the premiums, deductibles, copays and benefits of drug plans every year. You may lose thousands of dollars by not reviewing your drug plan every year to find out which plan is best for you. To review the drug plans for the next year, call1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227), or go to Medicare.gov. Note that this website is not Medicare.com.
If you have limited income and assets, you can also enroll in Medicare’s Extra Help program that helps people pay the costs of Medicare drug plans, like premiums, deductibles and copays. You can enroll in the Extra Help program at the same time that you enroll in a drug plan. People who qualify for Extra Help are also allowed to enroll in a new drug plan at anytime of the year.
The open enrollment period for changing to a new drug plan begins October 15 and ends December 7 of each year. During that period, you can:
- Join a Medicare Prescription Drug Plan.
- Switch from one Medicare drug plan to another Medicare drug plan.
- Drop your Medicare prescription drug coverage completely.
- Change from original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage Plan.
- Change from a Medicare Advantage Plan back to Original Medicare.
- Switch from one Medicare Advantage Plan to another Medicare Advantage Plan.
There is also a special Medicare Advantage open enrollment period from January 1-March 31 of each year. During that period you can:
- Leave your Medicare Advantage Plan and switch to another Medicare Advantage Plan.
- Leave your Medicare Advantage Plan and switch to Original Medicare.
- If you switch to Original Medicare during this period, you'll have until March 31 to also join a Medicare Prescription Drug Plan to add drug coverage.
Iowa Legal Aid provides help to low-income Iowans.
To apply for help from Iowa Legal Aid:
- Call 800-532-1275.
- Iowans age 60 and over, call 800-992-8161.
- Apply online at iowalegalaid.org
If Iowa Legal Aid cannot help, look for an attorney on “Find A Lawyer” A private attorney there can talk with you for a fee of $25 for 30 minutes of legal advice.
*As you read this information, remember this article is not a substitute for legal advice.