Prescription Drug Coverage
Medicare Part D is a great option for eligible individuals who take prescription
drugs on a regular basis. These plans are designed to help pay for the costs of
prescription drugs. You can choose a stand-alone prescription drug plan, called
a PDP, or a Medicare Advantage Prescription Drug Plan, called an MA-PD.
So, what do prescription drug plans cover? Medicare Part D plans, by law, must cover
commonly prescribed drugs. Both PDP and MA-PD
plans are offered through private insurance companies that are approved by Medicare.
These private companies are able to decide, for each plan, which drugs will be covered.
Each plan has a formulary,
or list of prescription drugs that the plan covers. The prescription drugs on each
plan’s formulary may change monthly and plans supply notices to individuals about
any changes if it affects a drug they take. If the U.S. Food and Drug Administration
(FDA) deem a specific drug to be unsafe, the plan will immediately remove the drug
from the formulary and notify all members affected by the change. Plans are not
required to send notices to members who are not affected by the formulary change,
although plans do need to update their formularies on their website monthly.
Before removing a covered Medicare Part D prescription drug from its formulary or
making changes to the coverage of a prescription drug, a Part D sponsor must either
give written notice to the affected individuals at least 60 days before the change
becomes effective, or provide a 60 day supply of the prescription drug if the affected
member requests a refill.
What Drug Plans Do Cover
Commonly prescribed brand name and generic drugs are covered by prescription drug
plans. However, not all plans cover all brand name or generic prescription drugs.
For example, one plan might cover certain Type 2 diabetes prescription drugs, but
it doesn’t necessarily cover all brand name and generic Type 2 diabetes prescription
Part D plans must also cover all commercially available vaccines and vaccine administration
costs associated with Part D vaccines (which exclude vaccines covered under Part
B). This includes any vaccine medically necessary to prevent illness, such as the
Formularies are set up in tiers. A drug in a lower tier will generally cost you
less in out-of-pocket expenses than a drug in a higher tier. Referring to a plan’s
formulary can give you a more specific idea of which prescription drugs are covered,
and which tier they are in, for the plans you are considering.
What Drug Plans Do Not Cover
Prescription drug plans do not cover all prescription drugs. This includes drugs
given in hospitals or doctor offices that are covered under Part A or Part B. It
also includes any drugs not listed on a plan’s drug formulary. Lastly, prescription
drug plans do not typically cover non-prescription drugs or prescription vitamins
(other than prenatal vitamins). Examples of specific prescription drugs not typically
covered include those for weight loss or weight gain , hair growth and/or erectile
Because Medicare Part D is provided by private insurance companies, each company
can decide which drugs to cover. However, the formulary must meet the minimum standards
and requirements of Medicare Part D coverage.