Medicare Prescription Drug Coverage

Frequently Asked Questions

11. When can a person sign up for a Medicare drug plan (Part D)?

Generally there are three times when people can sign up for Medicare prescription drug coverage. The best time to sign up for Medicare Part D is during the Initial Enrollment Period (IEP), which is 7 months long. The IEP covers the 3 months before the month a person becomes entitled to Medicare, the month of the entitlement, and the three months following.

There is an Annual Coordinated Election Period (AEP) sometimes called Part D "Fall Open Enrollment." The AEP is October 15 through December 7 each year. During the AEP people can join, change, or drop prescription drug coverage. The change will be effective January 1 of the following year.

There are special situations that give a person a Special Enrollment Period (SEP), such as a permanent move out of the plan's service area, being eligible for the extra help (low-income subsidy), or moving into, residing in, or leaving a long-term care facility (like a nursing home). The time period of the SEP depends on the reason for the Special Enrollment Period.

Some people with Medicare have a continuous Special Enrollment Period, including those who qualify for the extra help and those who live in a long-term care facility. They can change plans at any time, with the new plan coverage starting the first day of the next month.

For more information about Medicare Part D, visit http://www.medicare.gov to look at or print copies of "Your Guide to Medicare Prescription Drug Coverage" and "Compare Medicare Prescription Drug Plans." (Under "Search Tools," select "Find a Medicare Publication.") You may also call 1-800-Medicare (1-800-633-4227). TTY users should call 1-877-486-2048.