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Prescription drug benefit sign-up kicks in this week
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette


November 13, 2006

Get ready for Part D, round two - but be ready to act fast.

Beginning Wednesday, many Medicare recipients will again have the opportunity to enroll in the government's prescription drug program.

But unlike last year, when Medicare beneficiaries had until May 15 to join a private plan offering Part D benefits, this year's recipients will have only until Dec. 31 to sign up for Part D coverage.

There are some exceptions to the year-end deadline, but most recipients can't drop or add Part D coverage after that date. Some beneficiaries have greater flexibility to change their coverage, including Medicare recipients who also receive Medicaid.

Medicare beneficiaries who want to ensure that they have Part D coverage by Jan. 1 should enroll in a plan by early December, said Jack Vogelsong, coordinator for Pennsylvania's Apprise program, which provides free health insurance information to Medicare recipients.

But making a decision can be challenging, in part because of the wealth of choices available.

Not all Medicare recipients need to consider signing up for Part D. Those who already have good drug coverage through a former employer, for example, may not need the coverage.

But new Medicare recipients who lack good drug coverage may want to consider joining a plan. That's because if they are eligible to sign up now but put it off until next year, they will face a penalty under current guidelines.

The penalty for people who were eligible and lacked good coverage last year is less than $2 extra in monthly premiums, Vogelsong noted, but it will be higher next year.

Experts also encouraged Medicare beneficiaries already in Part D plans to evaluate their options. Though they generally can continue in their current plans, another plan might offer a better deal.


Joe Fahy can be reached at jfahy(at)
Distributed to subscribers for publication by
Scripps Howard News Service,

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