CourierPostOnline

Deadline Today For Medicare Drug Plan

CourierPostOnline – Monday, May 15, 2006

By WILFORD S. SHAMLIN
Courier-Post Staff

Senior citizens who wish to enroll in the Medicare Part D prescription drug plan must do so by midnight tonight to avoid penalties that substantially increase their premiums.

There has been a growing chorus of calls to extend the deadline. Sens. Robert Menendez, D-Hoboken, and Frank Lautenberg, D-Cliffside Park, are among those calling for an extension on the grounds that the program is complex and confusing.

So far, however, President Bush has given no indication that he will extend the deadline.

The next enrollment window is six months away.

More than 1.2 million New Jerseyans who are 65 and older or disabled are eligible for the federal government's $720 billion prescription program.

There are 19 providers in the state offering 45 prescription plans, with premiums ranging from $4.43 to $66.53.

New Jersey Citizen Action contends Medicare Part D benefits drug and insurance companies more than senior citizens. The political watchdog group is pushing for changes that would make prescription coverage simple and more affordable.

Bernard Rosen, a retired federal government employee from Medford, passed on Part D in favor of his existing coverage with Blue Cross–Blue Shield.

"I have found my health insurance is the best there is," Rosen said.

Many of his neighbors in the Medford Leas retirement community signed up for a health care plan affiliated with AARP.

The Bush administration has said Part D is intended to give senior citizens another option.

But Charles Edward, 81, a retiree from Marlton, said widespread confusion about Part D made the prescription drug benefit more of a deterrent than an incentive.

"As long as we're competitive with everybody else, I don't want to change," he said.

WHERE TO CALL
If you have questions about Medicare Part D, call:

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