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Best Rated Medicare Part D Plans For 2024

Medicare Part D is optional prescription drug insurance for Medicare beneficiaries to offset the cost of prescription medications. Over 59 million Medicare beneficiaries are enrolled in Medicare Part D. Part D plans are administered by private insurance carriers but regulated by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). With over 40 insurance carriers to choose from, it can be overwhelming to narrow your choices. That’s why we reviewed the Medicare Part D plans for 2024 and created this list of top-rated Medicare Part D Plans.

Medicare Part D plans for 2024: a shortlist

  1. UnitedHealthcare – best overall Medicare Part D plan
  2. Humana - best member benefits
  3. Aetna – best averaged CMS Star Ratings
  4. Cigna - best unique plan offerings
  5. Wellcare - best budget-friendly plans

Best Medicare Part D plans for 2024

These five top-rated insurance carriers, UnitedHealthcare, Humana, Aetna, Cigna, and Wellcare, administer over 60% of all Medicare Part D plans. Their exemplary plans offer many vital features that Medicare beneficiaries seek in prescription drug coverage, such as affordability, great customer service, easy accessibility, broad formularies (drug lists), and national pharmacy networks. Read more to discover which plans may be a good fit for your prescription needs.

1. UnitedHealthcare – best overall Medicare Part D plan

Provider overview
On Apollo's Website

UnitedHealthcare (UHC) is a long-standing insurance carrier offering three Medicare Part D plans in 2024. UHC is known for its network of preferred pharmacies and Optum Home Delivery program, which provides savings and convenience. Using Walgreens or Duane Reade pharmacies can maximize savings for members. UHC provides plans in all 50 States plus Washington D.C., Virgin Islands, Northern Mariana Islands, and Puerto Rico, although benefits vary by location. UHC offers three Part D plans: AARP MedicareRx Preferred, AARP MedicareRx Saver Plus, and AARP MedicareRx Walgreens.

Monthly premiums range from $6.00 – $129.10

2. Humana - best member benefits

Provider overview
On Apollo's Website

Humana’s three Medicare Part D plans include Humana Walmart Value Rx Plan, Humana Premier Rx Plan, and Humana Basic Rx Plan. Humana offers a broad pharmacy network with preferred cost-sharing at the following pharmacies: CenterWell Pharmacy, Walmart, Walmart Neighborhood Market, Sam’s Club, Publix, H-E-B, Costco pharmacies, and the Albertsons Companies family of pharmacies. Some of Humana’s unique offerings include a mail order program to have medications shipped to you, medication therapy management for qualifying members with multiple chronic conditions, a user-friendly website, and over 3,450 prescription drugs covered in their formularies.

Monthly premiums range from $26.00 $96.00

3. Aetna - best averaged CMS Star Ratings

Provider overview
On Apollo's Website

Aetna offers three Medicare Part D plans, including SilverScript SmartSaver, SilverScript Choice, and SilverScript Plus, designed to fit various budgets and prescription needs. Aetna is a well-known insurance carrier with good quality ratings from CMS. Their national CMS Star rating average is 3.5 in 2023, the highest of our reviewed plans. Aetna’s unique offerings include additional gap coverage for Tier 1/Tier 2 drugs with the SilverScript Plus plan and free standard mail delivery on SilverScript Choice plans. Aetna PDP plans are available in the 50 States and the District of Columbia.

Monthly premiums range from $5.92 – $75.58

4. Cigna - best unique plan offerings

Provider overview
On Apollo's Website

Cigna Medicare Part D Plans offers unique programs such as LASIK vision correction savings, Gaiam yoga products, acupuncture, and savings with pharmacy networks. Cigna’s Medicare Part D plans include Cigna Secure Rx Plan, Cigna Saver Rx Plan, and Cigna Extra Rx Plan. They have an expansive drug formulary covering 3,000-plus commonly used medications by Medicare beneficiaries. Most plans include an option for mail order, which can help reduce costs when ordering a 90-day supply. On most plans, Cigna achieved 4-star ratings in the customer service category.

Monthly premiums range from $13.00 – $65.00

5. Wellcare - best budget-friendly plans

Wellcare is an insurance carrier contracted with Medicare to provide Part D plans. They are well-equipped to serve individuals who qualify for Extra Help, also known as Low Income Subsidy. Low-cost premiums and copays characterize Wellcare Plans, and many plans have no deductibles. They offer the Wellcare Classic, Wellcare Medicare Rx Value Plus, and Wellcare Value Script. Wellcare is available in all 50 States and Washington, D.C.

Monthly premiums range from $11.00 – $71.00

*Note that with any plan, benefit availability will vary by plan and area.

How we ranked the Best Medicare Part D Plans providers?

We ranked the Best Medicare Part D Plans by evaluating publicly available data from CMS.gov to analyze averages of premiums and deductibles and identify plans with additional gap coverage. The data set also provided insights into the Plans’ State availability, Drug Benefit Types, and quality ratings.

CMS Star Ratings range from 1 (poor) to 5 (excellent) and are evaluated annually. The overall star rating is based on the categories below:

  • Drug plan customer service.
  • Member complaints and changes in the drug plan's performance.
  • Member's experience with the drug plan.
  • Drug safety and accuracy of drug pricing.

The chart below outlines the data we collected.

UnitedHealthcareHumanaAetnaCignaWellcare
Average of monthly drug premium$59.94$51.28$38.60$36.56$37.95
Average of annual drug deductible$291.96$440.13$336.67$370.00$336.67
Average of CMS star rating3.233.533
Additional gap coverage
32% of plans34% of plans33% of plans33% of plans0% of plans
State availability50 States; Washington, D.C.; Virgin Islands; Northern Mariana Islands, and Puerto Rico50 States; Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico50 States and Washington, D.C.50 States; Washington; D.C., and Puerto Rico50 States and Washington, D.C.
Number of plans available158155153156153
Drug benefit typeBasic - 56; Enhanced - 102Basic - 52; Enhanced - 103Basic - 51; Enhanced - 102Basic - 52; Enhanced - 104Basic - 51; Enhanced - 102

*Data available from CMS.gov “2023 PDP Landscape Source File (v 10 14 2022)”

What is Medicare Part D?

Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage is a benefit that was added in 2006 to help cover the costs of many outpatient prescription drugs for Medicare beneficiaries. You can obtain Medicare prescription drug coverage from two primary sources:

  • Medicare Prescription Drug Plan (PDP) if you have Original Medicare coverage. They are also known as “stand-alone” or “standard” plans.
  • Medicare Advantage Plan with prescription drug coverage (MA-PD) if you have Medicare Part C.

The Supplementary Medicare Insurance Trust Fund funds Medicare Part D. Part D plans include cost sharing, but the amounts will vary per plan for monthly premiums, annual deductibles, copays, and coinsurance. According to CMS, the average monthly premium for a stand-alone Part D plan is $32.09 in 2023. MA-PD plans do not have separate premiums for the prescription coverage portion since Medicare Advantage Plans with prescription coverage bundle services include Medicare Parts A, B, and D.

How does Medicare Part D work?

To participate in a Medicare Part D plan, most plans require paying a premium and cost-sharing fees in exchange for the drug coverage. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) regulates Part D but does not directly provide plans; instead, CMS contracts private companies to administer the plans.

All drug plan prices progress through four main phases or periods throughout the year. These four phases calculate costs per their cost structure, meaning a drug price can fluctuate throughout the year, even within the same plan. The four main phases are deductible, initial coverage period, coverage gap, and catastrophic benefit period. The phases progress to the following phase once the monetary max is achieved for that phase. Deductible is the first phase, which starts in January of each year.

Below is a chart summarizing the responsible party and how costs are structured during each phase. This is a general overview. Other cost variables include if the drug is covered in the plan’s formulary, what tier the drug is in, how much supply you are getting, and the manufacturer’s prices. Your specific plan may vary, so verifying your plan is essential.

PhaseResponsible partyCost structureTotal dollars
1. DeductibleBeneficiary100% paid by beneficiary (some plans have no deductible; in this case you enter straight into ICP.)Max of $505
2. Initial Coverage Period (ICP)Beneficiary and plan25% by beneficiary.
75% by plan.
$4,660
3. Coverage Gap (donut hole)Beneficiary, plan, and manufacturersGenerics: 25% by beneficiary and 75% by plan.
Brand name: 5% by plan and 70% discounted by manufacturer.
$7,400
4. Catastrophic Benefit PeriodBeneficiary and planGenerics: 5% by beneficiary, coinsurance or $4.15 copay (whichever is greater).
Brand name: 5% coinsurance or $10.35 copy (whichever is greater).
The plan covers the difference.
>$7,401

The implementation of the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 will soon change some of these limits, and it will also empower Medicare to negotiate drug prices. CMS aims to improve Part D plans with a strong focus on reducing costs.

Medicare Part D coverage

Medicare Part D drug plans cover a wide variety of drugs, but not every drug is included, so it’s essential to check your elected plan’s formulary to see if your prescribed medicines are covered. It’s also important to note that some medications are generally excluded from coverage, like vitamins, hair growth, erectile dysfunction, and other drugs.

Tip
This Medicare.gov plan compare tool can help you identify plans in your area and compare prescription coverage.

To understand Part D coverage, it's important to know these key terms:

  • Formulary. The plan’s list of covered medications is called a formulary. Medications may be added or removed at any time during the year. Medicare drug plans must offer at least two medications in the most commonly prescribed drug categories and classes to ensure equitable medication access for most beneficiaries. Plans are allowed to select which medications to include in their formulary.
  • Tiers. The formulary is organized into tiers. Typically, the lower-level tiers cost less than the higher-level tiers. Generic medicines are usually in lower-level tiers, while brand-name medications are in the higher-level tiers. Your plan will typically require you to use lower-level tiers unless medically necessary. Your doctor can request an exemption to use a higher-level tiered medication if they deem it necessary.
  • Basic or Enhanced. PDP plans are available as either basic or enhanced options. Basic plans provide the standard coverage, while enhanced plans offer a more comprehensive array of options such as larger formularies, lower cost-sharing, and inclusion of some medicines typically excluded from formularies. According to CMS, approximately 75% of beneficiaries elect enhanced plans. There are 465 Basic plans and 757 Enhanced plans.

How do you sign up for Medicare Part D?

Medicare Part D is an optional benefit. You must have Medicare Part A and/or B coverage to qualify for enrollment. Although optional, a permanent late enrollment penalty is added to monthly premiums if you do not enroll when initially eligible. Read more about late enrollment penalties in this article: Medicare Part D Late Enrollment Penalty: How Much Is the Fee? You may opt out of Part D coverage if you have “credible coverage,” meaning the prescription drug coverage pays as much or more than Medicare Part D coverage.

After evaluating your options and selecting the plan that best meets your needs, you have multiple options to enroll. You’ll need your Medicare card handy when you enroll.

  • Sign up online.
  • Call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227). TTY: 1-877-486-2048.
  • Fill out a paper application.
  • Contact the insurance carrier directly.

You cannot be concurrently enrolled in a Medicare Advantage Plan with prescription drug coverage or a stand-alone Medicare Part D drug plan.

How much do Medicare Part D Plans cost?

Medicare Part D Plan costs can be confusing because the costs can fluctuate throughout the year. Let’s start by defining the terms:

  • Premium. This is how much you pay each month to maintain prescription drug coverage. Premiums generally remain the same throughout the year.
  • Annual deductible. Most plans have a yearly deductible, the out-of-pocket cost you will spend before the plan starts sharing costs. The maximum amount allowed in 2024 is $505. Some plans do not charge a drug deductible.
  • Copay. Part of cost-sharing is that you will pay part of the cost of the medication. Copays charge a flat rate that varies per medication. Generally, generic drugs are cheaper than brand-name drugs.
  • Coinsurance. In this type of cost-sharing you will pay a percentage of the cost of the medication versus a flat rate as in copays. Coinsurance dollar amounts vary because it is a percentage of the drug’s cost, which can also fluctuate.

The costs are subject to change based on several factors, such as what coverage phase you’re in, how much the manufacturer charges for the drug, and if the pharmacy you use is in-network with your plan. Manufacturers can change medication prices throughout the year.

Forty-seven insurance carriers offer 1,222 PDP plans (employer-sponsored plans are excluded) in 2024. Some cost averages for PDP Plans include the following:

  • Avg. monthly Drug Premiums - $49.26
  • Avg. of Annual Drug Deductible - $389.28
  • Avg. Star Rating - 2.8
Tip for insulin users
Part D has capped the price at $35 for a one-month supply of insulin.

Those needing extra financial assistance can apply for the Low Income Subsidy (LIS), also known as Extra Help, program to obtain assistance paying for prescription drugs and Medicare prescription drug coverage.

Choosing the Best Medicare Part D plan

Choosing the best Medicare Part D plan is a personal choice that depends on which plans are available in your zip code and county, which prescription medications you take regularly, and what you value most from a prescription drug plan. Asking yourself some of the questions below could help identify a plan best suited for your needs:

  1. Cost. What are the plan’s cost-sharing requirements? Monthly premiums? Coinsurance/copays? Annual deductible? Do they fit your budget?
  2. Gap Coverage. Does the plan offer additional coverage in the gap phase to help cover costs?
  3. Drug formulary. Are your prescribed medications in the plan’s list of covered medications? If not, you may have to pay more for medicines not included in the formulary. What tiers are my drugs assigned to?
  4. Availability. Is your selected plan available in your county and zip code?
  5. Network Coverage. What local pharmacies are in-network with the plan? Do they offer mail-order services?
  6. Quality. What are the CMS Star ratings for my selected plan? Does the insurance carrier have a history of providing good quality care?
  7. PDP or MA-PD. Do you need a stand-alone drug plan (PDP), or are you looking to consolidate your other Medicare benefits with a drug plan like a Medicare Advantage Plan (MA-PD)?

If you’d like to discuss your Medicare Part D options with an unbiased resource, contact your State’s State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) or call 1-877-839-2675. These state counselors offer free, expert help in understanding and using Medicare benefits.


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