Once you are ready to enroll in Medicare, it is important to learn about Medicare Part D. Whether you decide to enroll in Original Medicare (Part A and Part B) or Medicare Advantage (also known as Medicare Part C), you still need to get your prescription drug coverage through a Part D plan.

What is Medicare Part D in Louisiana?

Medicare Part D is how Medicare beneficiaries in Louisiana get prescription drug coverage. You can either sign up for a standalone Part D plan, or a Medicare Advantage Prescription Drug (MA-PD) plan to get Medicare Parts A, B, and D through a single policy.

Both standalone Part D plans and MA-PD plans are offered by private insurers contracted with Medicare in the state of Louisiana.

Who is eligible for Medicare Part D in Louisiana?

As long as you are eligible for Medicare and enrolled in Parts A and/or B, you are eligible for Medicare Part D. There are specific periods you can enroll in Medicare:

  • Initial Enrollment Period (IEP): Starting three months before the month you turn 65 and continuing for the three months after, your IEP is the first time you can sign up for Medicare. Once you have enrolled in at least part of Original Medicare, you can sign up for Part D.
  • Following the General Enrollment Period (GEP): The GEP is every year from January 1 through March 31, but you cannot sign up for Part D. Immediately following, from April 1 to June 30, you can enroll in a Part D or Medicare Advantage plan.
  • Medicare Annual Enrollment Period (AEP): From October 15 through December 7 current Medicare beneficiaries can enroll in Medicare Part D.
  • Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period (OEP): Also from January 1 through March 31, during this time Medicare Advantage beneficiaries can make changes to their current coverage, change back to Original Medicare, and sign up for Medicare Part D if any changes made cause a loss of drug coverage.

If you miss these enrollment periods and wish to sign up outside of them, you need to qualify for a Special Enrollment Period (SEP). For a complete list of qualifying circumstances, such as no-fault coverage loss, check here.

What to look for in a Medicare Part D plan in Louisiana

When comparing Medicare Part D plans in Louisiana, cost and coverage should be your foremost concerns. Plans are offered by private companies, so it is important to thoroughly research all your options.

The best place to start is a plan's formulary; the tiered list of the prescription drugs a plan covers. Medications in higher tiers typically cost more, so be sure to check different plans and see where your prescriptions fall on different formularies. Balance the cost of any medication copays or coinsurance with the cost of your annual deductible and monthly premium. If your premium is low, but your copays are high, it might not balance in a way that is best for you.

Should you find yourself with limited income or resources, it can be a good idea to see if you qualify for Extra Help. This Medicare program helps to pay a variety of the costs associated with Part D plans.

Do I have to have Medicare Part D?

To put it simply, no, you do not have to have Medicare Part D. No state requires anyone to have any part of Medicare, but that does not mean you shouldn't sign up.

If you delay enrolling in Medicare Part D without creditable drug coverage from somewhere else, you risk lifelong late fees. Any time you go 63 days without coverage, you begin building late penalties. These fees are added to your monthly premium the entire time you have Medicare Part D.

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