People With Medicare
Medicare Question of the Month
Each month, our expert showcases a Medicare question submitted by one of our readers. You may submit a question at any time and get a personal response.
August 2012 Question:
I am not taking any medications right now. Does it ever make sense for someone like me to delay enrolling in Part D and accept the penalty?
Generally, we encourage anyone who is eligible for Part D (and who does not otherwise have creditable coverage, or coverage “as good as” Medicare) to enroll and get Part D coverage.
That said, Part D is a voluntary program, and you are right that one option is to delay enrollment and pay the penalty later on when you decide to enroll. However, it’s hard to say that you should delay enrolling now because you currently take no prescription drugs. That’s because no one can predict the future. And Part D is insurance to help you should you need help with your prescription drug costs.
Here are some important things to keep in mind when you are making this decision:
- Your health may change: As you age and your health status changes, your need for prescription drugs may grow. The cost of those drugs may also increase over time. Consider signing up for one of the least expensive Part D plans in your area now (some areas even offer plans with $0 monthly premium), especially if you have a chronic health condition that could worsen with age. Get Personal Help finding a plan.
- Penalty costs may go up: The cost of the Medicare Part D penalty depends on how long you went without creditable prescription drug coverage. So, what may be a small penalty amount, say if you only delayed Part D for a year, could become costly if you waited 5 years. How so?
For example, if you went without creditable coverage for one year, in 2012 you would roughly pay $3.70 in monthly penalty amount, plus any monthly Part D premium. If you had been without coverage for say 5 years, you would pay $18.60 every month in 2012, in addition to your monthly premium. You can see this penalty amount can become costly. And, this is a lifetime penalty -- meaning as long as you have Part D you may have to pay the penalty, and it can increase every year. Learn more about the Part D penalty.
- You can enroll only at certain times: Keep in mind that you may have to wait until the next available Open Enrollment Period to get Part D coverage. There are only limited times of the year, and in only certain exceptional situations, in which you can enroll in a plan.
For example, if your health suddenly changed, and you needed prescription coverage, you may have to wait to enroll during the annual enrollment period, which runs each year from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7, with coverage taking effect the following January 1. If you don’t enroll when you’re first eligible, you may end up in a situation where you need coverage, but you don’t have a special enrollment period and must wait until the next annual enrollment period to get it. Learn more about the rules on when and how you can join a plan.
If you need more help understanding your options before you make this decision, you can get personal help in your area.
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