Am I Required to Enroll in Medicare Prescription Drug Coverage?

Medicare drug coverage isn't required, but you may face penalties if you don't enroll when you're first eligible and decide you want it later.

You are not required to sign up for Medicare prescription drug coverage if you do not want it. 

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, which is drug coverage that is at least as good as Medicare drug coverage).

What is the Part D late enrollment penalty?

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 if you elected not to get coverage when first eligible or have evidence of creditable coverage, unless you receive what CMS calls "Extra Help."

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:

  • A standalone Medicare Part D plan, often referred to as a PDP, which provides coverage exclusively for prescription drugs.

  • Medicare Advantage Prescription Drug (MA-PD) plan, which is a plan that offers Original Medicare benefits along with coverage for prescription drugs. MA-PD plans can also offer other benefits that Original Medicare doesn’t cover.

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.

50.5 million Medicare beneficiaries were enrolled in Medicare drug coverage in 2023.1

How do I find the best Medicare drug plan for my needs?

A licensed insurance agent can help you compare Medicare Advantage 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.

We represent carriers such as Humana, UnitedHealthcare®, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Aetna, Cigna Healthcare, Wellcare, or Kaiser Permanente.

Compare plans today.

Speak with a licensed insurance agent



About the author

Christian Worstell is a senior Medicare and health insurance writer with He is also a licensed health insurance agent. Christian is well-known in the insurance industry for the thousands of educational articles he’s written, helping Americans better understand their health insurance and Medicare coverage.

Christian’s work as a Medicare expert has appeared in several top-tier and trade news outlets including Forbes, MarketWatch, WebMD and Yahoo! Finance.

Christian has written hundreds of articles for that teach Medicare beneficiaries the best practices for navigating Medicare. His articles are read by thousands of older Americans each month. By better understanding their health care coverage, readers may hopefully learn how to limit their out-of-pocket Medicare spending and access quality medical care.

Christian’s passion for his role stems from his desire to make a difference in the senior community. He strongly believes that the more beneficiaries know about their Medicare coverage, the better their overall health and wellness is as a result.

A current resident of Raleigh, Christian is a graduate of Shippensburg University with a bachelor’s degree in journalism.

If you’re a member of the media looking to connect with Christian, please don’t hesitate to email our public relations team at

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1 Cubanski J, Damico A. (July 26, 2023). Key Facts About Medicare Part D Enrollment and Costs in 2023. Kaiser Family Foundation.