By: Alex Enabnit | July 9, 2019

Our comprehensive guide helps you find the best Part D drug plan for you

Although Medicare is not without its faults, one thing is clear: Medicare Part D has been a successful program. With nearly 72% of all beneficiaries enrolled in Part D, this optional add-on to Original Medicare is a popular way to lower drug costs.1

But before diving into the deep end of Part D plans, you’ll want to perform due diligence to get the best plan for your needs. In this guide, we’ll walk you through how to research and then successfully sign up for a Part D plan.

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Enrolling in Medicare Part D: What you’ll need

Before you can enroll in Medicare Part D, you’ll first need to be enrolled in Medicare Part A and/or Part B. Once you enroll in either of those, you can start doing the crucial preparations for enrolling in a Part D plan.

The most important preparation you can do before finding a Part D plan is recording information about your medications. No matter how you sign up for Part D, you’ll need to follow this step because the medications you take will determine which plan works best for you.

Start by gathering all your prescription drugs into one place (don’t include over-the-counter medications or vitamins). If it’s prescribed  you and you take it regularly, put it all on the table. Then, write down these three things for each medication:

  1. The medication’s name exactly as it appears on the label. A lot of drugs have similar names or even the same name but with different formulations (like CR, controlled release, or SR, sustained release), so it’s important to record exactly what you see on the label.
  2. The dosage of the medication. Your dosage can affect your final cost or enact certain plan restrictions depending on the Part D plan.
  3. The frequency of the medication. The number of pills you take also affects the cost, so double check how often you take your medication and write it down.

Once you have these recorded, you’ll be able to compare plans, apples-to-apples. But even though your medication information is the primary factor in considering a plan, there could be other criteria to consider. Examples may include restrictions, ordering options, or a plan’s track record.

After this prework, you will be prepared to sort through the list of Part D plans.

How to apply for Medicare Part D: The basics

With either your phone or your computer, you have two ways you can easily enroll in Medicare Part D:

  • Call an Eligibility representative: This option works well for people who want guidance from a trained specialist to narrow down the best plan for their needs.
  • Online with Medicare’s plan finder: This is a good option for people who want to see and compare plans for themselves, although it’s not without its faults.

Applying for Medicare Part D by phone

Before calling, be sure you do all the prep work as described in “Enrolling in Medicare Part D: What you’ll need,” above. Then follow these three easy steps:

  1. Call 855-802-1206: Representatives are available Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. (MST)
  2. Speak with an agent: You’ll answer questions about your medications and other pertinent information.
  3. Enroll in a plan: The representative will help find the best plan for your needs and then walk you through enrollment, right on the phone. Nice and easy.

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Applying for Medicare Part D with Medicare’s plan finder

Before going to Medicare’s site, be sure you’ve finished all the prep work described in “Enrolling in Medicare Part D: What you’ll need” (above).

  1. Go to the Medicare Plan Finder page: Enter your zip, then click on “Find Plans.”
  2. Enter your information: Answer the questions, and under, “Would you like to add drugs?” click yes. Proceed to the next page.
  3. Enter all your drugs, dosages, and frequencies just as you listed them: Sometimes, you have the option to use a generic version of your medication, which is less expensive.
    1. Record drug information: From the “Retrieve my saved drug list” box, write down your drug list ID, password date, and ZIP code. You can use this in case you want to compare plans in the future without entering all your medications again. Proceed to the next page.
  4. Select up to two pharmacies*: Proceed to the next page.
    • *A note about selecting pharmacies: Unfortunately, without looking at the plans, it’s difficult to know which pharmacy is best for your needs. Since each plan has different pharmacies in its network, it’s hard to know which one to pick now, before you even have a list of plans to choose from. But alas, this is the way the plan finder works until Medicare revamps their site. 
  1. Select “Prescription Drug Plans (with Original Medicare)”: Add whichever filters you wish (under “Refine Your Search”). Proceed to the next page.
  2. Compare, compare, compare: You’ll finally come to a list of plans available to you. These plans can be sorted and compared side-by-side and will display a wealth of information for you to look over. Perhaps most important is the estimated annual drug costs, which automatically sorts from lowest to highest. Keep in mind: these are estimates.
  3. Enroll. Once you’ve narrowed the many options, you can enroll via your selected plan’s “Enroll” button.

If this process seems a little daunting, that’s understandable—there’s a lot of information to sift through. Regardless, it does give you everything you need to make an informed choice on Part D coverage.

However, if after reading through these steps, you’ve realized you’d rather have someone help you find a plan than have to sort through them yourself, you may be interested in the guidance of an experienced representative over the phone.

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When to apply for Medicare Part D

If you don’t have creditable drug coverage or health insurance from a current employer, the best time to sign up for Part D is during your 7-month initial enrollment period (IEP) to avoid penalties.

Under your IEP, you have a 7-month window that opens 3 months before you turn 65 and closes at the end of the 3rd month following your birthday month. For example, if you turn 65 in May, your open enrollment would start on February 1 and last until August 31.

Medicare Initial Enrollment Period

You may also qualify for a special enrollment period (SEP) under certain circumstances, like if you don’t enroll in Part B during your IEP. Typically a SEP lasts for 63 days.

If you miss your deadline during your IEP or SEP, you’ll have to wait for the Annual Open Enrollment Period in the Fall (October 15 through December 7).

Learn more about enrollment periods and the circumstances surrounding them.

After you apply for Medicare Part D

Once you’ve applied, the plan has 10 calendar days to reply in one of three ways:

  • Confirming they’ve received your application
  • Requesting more information
  • Denying your application with an explanation why.

If you merely receive confirmation, you’ll soon get a card in the mail with important documents about your plan details. If they need more information from you, send it to them ASAP. If they’ve denied you, it’s either because you’re not in the plan’s service area or you’re not currently in an enrollment period—get more information about these reasons and try again for another plan.

Wait . . . I’m not sure if Part D is for me. Is there another way to get creditable drug coverage?

Alternatively, you can get drug benefits from a Medicare Advantage plan. Medicare Advantage (or Part C) is private insurance offering all the benefits of Medicare Part A and Part B, often with Part D equivalent drug coverage.

If you’re unsure whether a Part C or Part D plan is best for you, try out our Suggest-a-Plan tool.

Ready to apply for Medicare Part D?

Ready to apply? Check out Medicare’s plan finder or just give us a call. We’ll be happy to help guide you through the process.


  1. Kaiser Family Foundation, “Medicare Part D in 2018: The Latest on Enrollment, Premiums, and Cost Sharing

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