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Drug plan coverage rules


Call your Medicare drug plan to find out the specific drug coverage rules for your plan.

Medicare drug plans may have these coverage rules:

  • Prior authorization: You and/or your prescriber must contact the drug plan before you can fill certain prescriptions. Your prescriber may need to show that the drug is medically necessary for the plan to cover it.
  • Quantity limits: Limits on how much medication you can get at a time.
  • Step therapy: You must try one or more similar, lower cost drugs before the plan will cover the prescribed drug.

Before your prescriptions are filled, your Medicare drug plan will also perform additional safety checks, like checking for unsafe amounts of opioid pain medications.

If you or your prescriber believe that one of these coverage rules should be waived, you can ask your plan for an exception.

Part D vaccine coverage

Except for vaccines covered under Medicare Part B (Medical Insurance), Medicare drug plans must cover all commercially available vaccines (like the shingles vaccine) when medically necessary to prevent illnes

Drugs you get in hospital outpatient settings

In most cases, the prescription drugs you get in a hospital outpatient setting, like an emergency department or during observation services, aren't covered by Part B. These are sometimes called "self-administered drugs" that you would normally take on your own. Your Medicare drug plan may cover these drugs under certain circumstances.

You'll likely need to pay out-of-pocket for these drugs and submit a claim to your drug plan for a refund. Or, if you get a bill for self-administered drugs you got in a doctor's office, call your Medicare drug plan for more information.

Automatic refill mail-order service for prescription drugs

Some people with Medicare get their prescription drugs by using an “automatic refill” service that automatically delivers prescription drugs when you’re about to run out. Some prescription drug plans weren’t making sure that some customers still wanted or needed a prescription drug and this created waste and unnecessary additional costs for people with Medicare and Part D.

Now, there’s a new policy for mail-order prescriptions. Plans have to get your approval to deliver a prescription (new or refill) unless you ask for the refill or request the new prescription. Some plans may ask you for your approval every year so that they can send you all new prescriptions without asking you before each delivery. Other plans may ask you before each delivery.

This new policy won’t affect refill reminder programs where you go in person to pick up the prescription, and it won’t apply to long-term care pharmacies that give out and deliver prescription drugs. Giving your approval may be a change for you if you've always used mail-order in the past and haven't had the opportunity to confirm that you still need refills.


Be sure to give your pharmacy the best way to reach you, so you don't miss the refill confirmation call or other communication.

Contact your plan if you get any unwanted prescription drugs through an automated delivery program.

You may be eligible for a refund for the amount you were charged. If you aren’t able to resolve the issue with the plan or wish to file a complaint, call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227).

Learn how to sign up online for automatic refills with some pharmacies or get your prescription history.