If you’re thinking about obtaining health coverage through Medicare in Alaska and you want coverage for prescription drugs you take on a regular basis, Medicare Part D is a must-have.
Getting to Know Medicare Part D
You have two options to choose from when you enroll in Medicare while living in Alaska. You can enroll in Original Medicare, which includes Part A and B, or you can choose a Medicare Advantage plan (also known as Medicare Part C). If you choose to stick with Original Medicare only, then you’ll need to sign up for a stand-alone Part D prescription drug coverage plan, as well. Why? Because Parts A and B do not cover prescription drugs. If you choose to go with a Medicare Advantage plan, most plans will include drug coverage.
Alaska’s medical insurance options are unique due to the fact that many plans which are available in more populace states, such as California and New York, are not available to Alaska’s residents. It is for this reason that over 42,000 people enrolled in Medicare in Alaska have also enrolled in stand-alone Medicare Part D Drug Plans. In contrast, only 746 enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan, according to research by the Kaiser Family Foundation. These numbers indicate the lack of Medicare Advantage plans available in Alaska.
Medicare Part D coverage is provided by private insurance companies contracted to serve Alaskans by Medicare.
Getting Medicare Part D Coverage in Alaska
There are several specific time periods when you can enroll in Medicare Part D. There are as follows:
Initial Enrollment Period (IEP): This occurs when you are first eligible for Medicare, and it includes the three months before your 65th birthday, your birthday month, and three months afterward.
Annual Election Period (AEP): During this period, you can make changes to your Medicare prescription drug plan. This occurs yearly and runs from October 15 to December 7.
Open Enrollment Period (OEP): If you have Medicare Advantage and you want to change to another plan, this is the period when you can do so. Open Enrollment Period for Medicare Advantage runs from January 1 to March 31. If you decide to unenroll from Medicare Advantage and go back to Original Medicare, you can do so during this time.
Special Enrollment Period (SEP): If you experience a special life circumstance that qualifies you to enroll outside of the standard enrollment periods, you may do so. This only applies to certain qualifying events, such as losing coverage through no fault of your own.
If you delay and wait to sign up for Medicare Part D Prescription Drug coverage, you will face paying an extra fee on top of your monthly premium for the life of your policy.
What Part D Options are Available to Alaskans?
Even though some options may be limited, there are plenty of excellent Part D prescription drug plans available. As of 2019, according to CMS, for Alaska:
- 22 Medicare Part D plans are available.
- Every Alaskan with a Medicare Part D plan now have access to a plan with a lower premium than they paid the year prior.
- 51% of people with Part D receive Extra Help.
- The lowest monthly premium for Medicare Part D is $7.30.
If you qualify for the Extra Help program, you’ll not only have a low monthly premium but will also receive help to pay for a portion – or all – of your out-of-pocket costs
Do Part D Plans Ever Change?
Each Part D plan, whether through a stand-alone Prescription Plan or as part of a Medicare Advantage plan, has its own list of prescription medications covered by the policy. This list is known as the formulary. Be sure to shop around and compare plans before committing to ensure your medications are on the list. Do keep in mind, however, that formularies can change. If that happens, your health insurance will alert you to the changes.
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