In this Q&A series, Medicare expert Christian Worstell answers your questions about Medicare coverage, benefits, eligibility, enrollment and more. Christian is a licensed insurance agent and frequent contributor to MedicareAdvantage.com.
"I don’t like to take many prescription medications because of potential side effects and the risk of addiction to things like pain killers. I’m in really good health for my age (64). Will I be required to pay for prescription drug coverage once I am on Medicare?" – Patricia K., Youngstown, OH
Hi Patricia, thanks for writing. To answer your question, no, you are not required to sign up for Medicare prescription drug coverage if you do not want it.
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You should note, however, that you may face a late enrollment penalty if you forego Medicare prescription drug coverage now and decide to sign up at a later date (and don’t have some other form of creditable prescription drug coverage).
The Part D late enrollment penalty is an extra fee that’s added to your monthly Part D premium, and you have to pay the penalty for the rest of the time that you have Medicare drug coverage.
Prescription drugs are not typically covered by Original Medicare (Medicare Part A and Part B). If you want Medicare prescription drug coverage, you can enroll in one of the following:
Part D plans and Medicare Advantage plans that provide prescription drug coverage are entirely optional and you do not have to purchase drug coverage if you don’t want it.
However, there are two reasons I advise you to consider enrolling in either option:
So to wrap it all up, no, you are not technically required to purchase Medicare prescription drug coverage. Around 70 percent of Medicare beneficiaries are enrolled in Medicare drug coverage, however, and many likely do so because of at least one of the reasons listed above.3
A licensed insurance agent can help you compare Medicare Advantage plans and Medicare prescription drug plans that are available in your area. They can help you explore important factors such as the costs of each plan, what pharmacies near you are accepted by the plan and how much your drugs cost with the plan.
You can also compare plans online for free, all from the comfort of your home and with no obligation to enroll.
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1 Jacobson G, et al. (Oct. 24, 2019). Medicare Advantage 2020 Spotlight: First Look. Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF). Retrieved from https://www.kff.org/report-section/medicare-advantage-2020-spotlight-first-look-data-note.
2 Cubanski J, Damico A. (Nov. 14, 2019). Medicare Part D: A First Look at Prescription Drug Plans in 2020. KFF. Retrieved from https://www.kff.org/medicare/issue-brief/medicare-part-d-a-first-look-at-prescription-drug-plans-in-2020.
3 Cubanski J, et al. (June 4, 2019). 10 Things to Know About Medicare Part D Coverage and Costs in 2019. KFF. Retrieved from https://www.kff.org/medicare/issue-brief/10-things-to-know-about-medicare-part-d-coverage-and-costs-in-2019.
Christian Worstell is a licensed insurance agent and a Senior Staff Writer for MedicareAdvantage.com. He is passionate about helping people navigate the complexities of Medicare and understand their coverage options.
His work has been featured in outlets such as Vox, MSN, and The Washington Post, and he is a frequent contributor to health care and finance blogs.
Christian is a graduate of Shippensburg University with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. He currently lives in Raleigh, NC.
Where you've seen coverage of Christian's research and reports: