Medicare prescription deadline approaching

Less than three weeks remain to sign up for Medicare’s prescription-drug coverage without penalty. Nearly four in 10 beneficiaries aren’t aware of the impending deadline, states a recent report by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

As the May 15 open-enrollment deadline nears, it’s important to encourage beneficiaries to look into signing up so they will not chance the financial penalties down the line, states a press release issued by the Kaua‘i Agency on Elderly Affairs.

More than 7 million beneficiaries remain without coverage, according to Medicare agency data, including millions who could qualify for extra financial help because of low income and assets.

While some beneficiaries may be tempted to wait until the last minute to look into enrolling, they could encounter frustrations by delaying. Internet connections and telephone lines are likely to become especially busy in the last-minute rush to sign up. Most beneficiaries who wait until after May 15 to enroll will have to wait until next year for their drug coverage to begin. Also, for each month of delayed sign-up, the premium rises one percent (of the national average premium, which is $25 for 2006).

Beneficiaries who believe the drug coverage they have now is as good as or better than that offered by Medicare, should contact their current health insurance company for verification. It is important to have this documentation on file should they decide to enroll in a Medicare prescription drug plan in the future.

For Medicare beneficiaries still trying to make a decision about signing up for prescription coverage through Medicare, help is available. Many state and local organizations help beneficiaries compare plans.

Beneficiaries and caregivers can also call Medicare at 1-800-Medicare (1-800-633-4227) for help and speak with a counselor. 

 The Social Security Administration can also provide assistance for those who may qualify financially for extra help. Medicare beneficiaries interested in applying for extra help or those who have previously applied and wish to check their status can call 1-800-772-1213 to contact their local Social Security office.

The Medicare Rx Access Network of Hawaii emphasizes that enrolling in a Medicare prescription drug plan is an individual choice and that to make a truly informed decision, beneficiaries should look into all the new benefit’s options.

For assistance, call: Kaua‘i Agency on Elderly Affairs at 241-4470.

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