Medicare Prescription Drug (Part D) Plans
Get help covering the cost of your prescription drugs. A stand-alone Medicare prescription drug (Part D) plan can help pay for your medication. You can also get prescription drug coverage as part of a Medicare Advantage plan.
You must live in the service area of the Part D plan to enroll, and some plans will have a network of pharmacies they work with. With prescription drug coverage, in addition to costs varying by plan and provider, your costs may be different based on if a pharmacy is considered in-network or out-of-network, as well as if your drugs are separated into different cost levels, or tiers.
Note for Veterans:
People who have benefits through the Veterans Affairs may be able to get prescription drug coverage through the VA and may not need Medicare drug coverage. Talk with your VA benefits administrator before making any decisions.
What do Medicare Part D plans cover?
Medicare prescription drug (Part D) plans cover the following:
- Types of drugs most commonly prescribed for Medicare beneficiaries as determined by federal standards
- Specific brand name drugs and generic drugs included in the plan's formulary (list of covered drugs)
- Commercially available vaccines not covered by Part B
It is important to note that while Medicare Part D plans are required to cover certain common types of drugs, the specific generic and brand-name drugs they include on their formulary varies by plan. You will need to review a plan's formulary to see if the drugs you need are covered.
What is not covered by Medicare Part D plans?
The drugs you take may not be covered by every Part D plan. You need to review each plan’s drug list, or formulary, to see if your drugs are covered. The following will not be covered:
- Drugs not listed on a plan's formulary
- Drugs prescribed for anorexia, weight loss or weight gain
- Drugs prescribed for fertility, erectile dysfunction, cosmetic purposes or hair growth
- Prescription vitamins and minerals
- Non-prescription drugs (e.g., over-the-counter medications)
- Drugs that are already covered by Medicare Part A and Part B
View Prescription Drug plans available in your area
What should I know about a plan's drug list?
Medicare Part D and Medicare Advantage plans have a drug list (also called a formulary) that tells you what drugs are covered by a plan. Medicare sets standards for the types of drugs Part D plans must cover, but each plan chooses the specific brand name and generic drugs to include on its formulary. Here are some important things to know:
- A plan's drug list can change from year to year.
- Plans can choose to add or remove drugs from their drug list each year. The list can also change for other reasons. For example, if a drug is taken off the market. Your plan will let you know if there's a coverage change to a drug you're taking.
- Many Part D plans have a tiered formulary.
How does a tiered formulary work?
Many plans have a tiered formulary where the plan's list of drugs are divided into groups (tiers) based on cost. In general, drugs in low tiers cost less than drugs in high tiers. Additionally, plans may charge a deductible for certain drug tiers and not for others, or the deductible amount may differ based on the tier.
What does it mean if my prescription drug has a requirement or limit?
Plans have rules that limit how and when they cover certain drugs. These rules are called requirements or limits. You need to follow the rules to avoid paying the full cost of the drug out-of-pocket. If you do not get approval from the plan for a drug with a requirement or limit before using it, you may be responsible for paying the full cost of the drug. If needed, you and your doctor can also ask the plan for an exception.
Here are the requirements and limits you may see on a drug list:
If a plan requires you or your doctor to get prior approval for a drug, it means the plan needs more information from your doctor to make sure the drug is being used and covered correctly by Medicare for your medical condition. Certain drugs may be covered by either Medicare Part B (doctor and outpatient health care) or Medicare Part D (prescription drugs) depending on how they are used. If you don't get prior approval, the plan may not cover the drug.
The plan will cover only a certain amount of a drug for one copay or over a certain number of days.
The plan wants you to try one or more lower-cost alternative drugs before it will cover the drug that costs more.
B/D – Medicare Part B or Medicare Part D Coverage Determination
Depending on how they're used, some drugs may be covered by either Medicare Part B (doctor and outpatient health care) or Medicare Part D (prescription drugs). The plan needs more information about how a drug will be used to make sure it's correctly covered by Medicare.
If a drug is considered "limited access," the FDA has said the drug can be given out only by certain facilities or doctors, not at a network pharmacy.
MME – Morphine Milligram Equivalent
Additional quantity limits (see above) may apply across all drugs in the opioid class used for the treatment of pain. The MME is designed to monitor safe dosing levels of opioids, especially for individuals who may be taking more than one opioid drug for pain management.
An opioid drug used for the treatment of acute pain may be limited to a 7-day supply to minimize long-term opioid use.
Drugs with dispensing limits are limited to a one-month supply per prescription.
What does Medicare Part D cost?
Like Medicare Advantage plans, Part D stand-alone plans will also vary in costs based on the plan you choose. Each plan negotiates prices with drug manufactures and pharmacies. Your copays and coinsurance rates are based on these prices and on guidelines set by Medicare. You can find explanations of specific drug costs in each Part D plan's Summary of Benefits or Evidence of Coverage materials.
Your total prescription drug costs will also be impacted by the number of prescriptions you take, how often you take them, if you get them from an in-network or out-of-network pharmacy, and what Part D coverage stage you are in. Your costs may also be less if you qualify for the Extra Help program.
First, let's look at what kinds of costs you could pay for Part D, then dive into the different coverage stages and how they work.
Costs you could pay with Medicare Part D
With stand-alone Part D plans, you will pay a monthly premium and may also pay an annual deductible, copays and coinsurance.
Some plans charge deductibles, some do not, but Medicare sets a maximum deductible amount each year. In 2022, the annual deductible limit for Part D is $480.
Copays are generally required each time you fill a prescription for a covered drug. Amounts can vary based on the plan’s formulary tiers as well as what pharmacy you use if the plan has network pharmacies.
Some plans may also set coinsurance rates for certain drugs or tiers. In this case the plan charges a percentage of the cost each time you fill a prescription.
Understanding the Part D Coverage Stages
During the year, you may go through different drug coverage stages. There are four stages, and it's important to understand how each impact your prescription drug costs. You may not go through all the stages. People who take few prescription drugs may remain in the deductible stage or move only to the initial coverage stage. People with many medications (or expensive ones) may move into the coverage gap (the Part D "Donut Hole") and/or catastrophic stage.
The coverage stage cycle starts over at the beginning of each plan year, usually January 1st.
You pay for your drugs until you reach your plan's deductible
If your plan doesn't have a deductible, your coverage starts with the first prescription you fill.
You pay a copay or coinsurance, and your plan pays the rest.
You stay in this stage until your total drug costs reach $4,430 in 2022.
Coverage Gap (Donut Hole)*
You pay 25% of the cost for both brand-name and generic drugs in 2022.
You stay in this stage until your total out-of-pocket costs reach $7,050 in 2022.
You pay a small copay or coinsurance amount.
You stay in this stage for the rest of the plan year.
- Total drug costs: the amount you (or others on your behalf) and your plan pay for your covered prescription drugs. Your plan premium payments are not included in this amount.
- Out-of-pocket costs: The amount you (or others on your behalf) pay for your covered prescription drugs plus the amount of the discount that drug manufacturers provide on brand-name drugs when you’re in the third coverage stage -- the coverage gap (donut hole). Your plan premiums are not included in this amount.
A note about the Part D coverage gap (donut hole)
The Part D coverage gap—also known as the "donut hole"—opens when you and your plan have paid up to a certain limit for your drugs in the one year. When you're in this stage, you pay a bigger share of the costs for your prescriptions than before. You will exit the coverage gap only when the total amount you and others on your behalf have paid for your drugs reaches another set limit. The limits to enter and exit the coverage gap are set by Medicare, as well as what counts towards reaching the limits, and both can change each year.
*If you get Extra Help from Medicare, the coverage gap doesn't apply to you.
See how Medicare costs may work with these Medicare coverage examples
Tips for saving on prescription drugs
- Know the plan's drug list (formulary). Make sure your medication is on a plan's drug list. If it's not, check with your provider to see if there's one on the drug list you can switch to.
- Ask if your plan participates in the Part D Senior Savings Model for insulin1.
- Consider generics. Ask your provider about generic or low‑cost options to replace higher-tier or more expensive drugs.
- Show your member ID card. Be sure to show your member ID card when filling prescriptions to get any member cost savings.
- Use the mail order pharmacy. Convenient home delivery of your regular, maintenance medications can save time and money.
- Order 90-day supplies. You may be able to save on prescription drug costs by ordering 90-day supplies.
- Use a preferred network pharmacy. Many plans offer cost savings if you fill your prescriptions at a pharmacy that's part of the plan's preferred network.
- Use a specialty pharmacy to help manage more chronic or complex conditions. Specialty pharmacies, like BriovaRx2, provide extra support through expert care and personalized connections.
1You will pay a maximum of $35 for a 1-month supply of Part D select insulin drugs during the deductible, Initial Coverage and Coverage Gap or "Donut Hole" stages of your benefit. You will pay 5% of the cost of your insulin in the Catastrophic Coverage stage. This cost-sharing only applies to members who do not qualify for a program that helps pay for your drugs ("Extra Help").
2BriovaRx is an affiliate of UnitedHealthcare Insurance Company. Other pharmacies are available in our network. You are not required to use BriovaRx as your specialty pharmacy.
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