How to get prescription drug coverage

Medicare drug coverage helps pay for prescription drugs you need. Even if you don’t take prescription drugs now, you should consider getting Medicare drug coverage. Medicare drug coverage is optional and is offered to everyone with Medicare. If you decide not to get it when you’re first eligible, and you don’t have other creditable prescription drug coverage (like drug coverage from an employer or union) or get Extra Help, you’ll likely pay a late enrollment penalty if you join a plan later. Generally, you’ll pay this penalty for as long as you have Medicare drug coverage. To get Medicare drug coverage, you must join a Medicare-approved plan that offers drug coverage. Each plan can vary in cost and specific drugs covered. 

There are 2 ways to get Medicare drug coverage:

1. Medicare drug plans. These plans add drug coverage to Original Medicare, some Medicare Cost Plans, some Private Fee‑for‑Service plans, and Medical Savings Account plans. You must have 

Medicare Part A (Hospital Insurance)

 and/or 

Medicare Part B (Medical Insurance)

 to join a separate Medicare drug plan.

2. 

Medicare Advantage Plan (Part C)

 or other 

Medicare Health Plan

 with drug coverage. You get all of your Part A, Part B, and drug coverage, through these plans. Remember, you must have Part A and Part B to join a Medicare Advantage Plan, and not all of these plans offer drug coverage.

Visit Medicare.gov/plan-compare to get specific Medicare drug plan and Medicare Advantage Plan costs, and call the plans you’re interested in to get more details. For help comparing plan costs, contact your State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP).

Find a Medicare drug plan.

6 things to look for when choosing Medicare drug coverage.

How to join a drug plan

Once you choose a Medicare drug plan, here's how to get prescription drug coverage:

  • Enroll on the Medicare Plan Finder or on the plan's website.
  • Complete a paper enrollment form.
  • Call the plan.
  • Call us at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227). TTY: 1-877-486-2048.

When you join a Medicare drug plan, you'll give your Medicare Number and the date your Part A and/or Part B coverage started. This information is on your Medicare card.

Consider all your drug coverage choices

Before you make a decision, learn how prescription drug coverage works with your other drug coverage. For example, you may have drug coverage from an employer or union, TRICARE, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the Indian Health Service, or a Medicare Supplement Insurance (Medigap) policy. Compare your current coverage to Medicare drug coverage. The drug coverage you already have may change because of Medicare drug coverage, so consider all your coverage options.

If you have (or are eligible for) other types of drug coverage, read all the materials you get from your insurer or plan provider. Talk to your benefits administrator, insurer, or plan provider before you make any changes to your current coverage.

Joining a Medicare drug plan may affect your Medicare Advantage Plan  

If you join a Medicare Advantage Plan, you’ll usually get drug coverage through that plan. In certain types of plans that can’t offer drug coverage (like Medical Savings Account plans) or choose not to offer drug coverage (like certain Private Fee-for-Service plans), you can join a separate Medicare drug plan. If you’re in a Health Maintenance Organization, HMO Point-of-Service plan, or Preferred Provider Organization, and you join a separate drug plan, you’ll be disenrolled from your Medicare
Advantage Plan and returned to Original Medicare.

You can only join a separate Medicare drug plan without losing your current health coverage when you’re in a:

  • Private Fee-for-Service Plan
  • Medical Savings Account Plan
  • Cost Plan
  • Certain employer-sponsored Medicare health plans

Talk to your current plan if you have questions about what will happen to your current health coverage.

Find out who to call about Medicare options, claims and more.