Medicare Part D now offers prescription drug coverage. Coverage is available through numerous Prescription Drug Plans (PDPs) and Medicare Advantage Plans (HMOs). Costs vary depending on the plan that is chosen. Each PDP can set their premiums, deductibles, co-payments and coverage gaps, as long as they have been approved by and are in accordance with federal law. Medicare Part D plans may not cover all the medications that are on the market. Each Prescription Drug Plan has their own list of drugs they will cover.

People who become eligible for Medicare (at either age 65 or due to Social Security disability status) can join a Part D plan to start in the month their Medicare becomes available. For individuals already in a Medicare Part D plan, and wish to change to another plan, the next Annual Open Enrollment Period begins November 15 and ends on December 31 for coverage to begin as of January 1. You may change plans without penalty during the Annual Open Enrollment Period.

Extra Help is Available for People with Limited Incomes and Resources

People with limited income and resources will be eligible for assistance with their prescription drug coverage. This is referred to as Medicare Rx Extra Help. Although the amount of Extra Help will vary according to income and resources, it will provide for both lower premiums and lower drug costs. Fill out an application from Social Security (1-800-772-1213), if you think you qualify, or call your local SHIP or the Asian American Anti-Smoking Foundation (410 290-6675) for assistance.

How You Can Get Assistance to Understand Medicare Part D

The Maryland Department of Aging and the 19 Area Agencies on Aging (AAAs) offer information and assistance with Medicare and other insurance through SHIP, the Senior Health Insurance Assistance Program. Each of the 19 AAAs has a designated SHIP Coordinator, as well as trained volunteers who will be answering telephone calls and counseling clients. There are approximately 130 SHIP volunteers, statewide. Each Area Agency offers public seminars focusing on Medicare Prescription Drug Coverage.

Contact Maryland SHIP (410-767-1100 or 1-800-243-3425) or your local Office on Aging’s SHIP for information and enrollment assistance on the Medicare Prescription Drug Plans, for help applying for Medicare Rx Extra Help, or to find a seminar date and location.

For help in Chinese or Vietnamese, call the Asian American Anti-Smoking Foundation at (410 290-6675) or email at