Extension Sought on Medicare Rx Benefit Enrollment Deadline
New Jersey Sens. Frank Lautenberg (D) and Robert Menendez (D) on Monday called for an extension of the May 15 deadline for Medicare beneficiaries to enroll in the prescription drug benefit, the Associated Press reports. Beneficiaries who enroll after May 15 will have to pay penalties.
Lautenberg and Menendez said the extension is needed because many beneficiaries are confused about the drug benefit. In the House, New Jersey Reps. Chris Smith (R) and Frank Pallone (D) also expressed support for a deadline extension, the Associated Press reports (De La Cruz, Associated Press, 4/10).
Rep. Jeb Bradley (R-N.H.), who has co-sponsored legislation that would extend the deadline until August, said, "As we're approaching May 15, more and more people are navigating through [the] sign-up process. There's no question there is confusion, which is why I've introduced the legislation." However, he added, "At the same time, people who have signed up are starting to save quite a bit of money" (Fahey, Manchester Union Leader, 4/11).
Lautenberg and Menendez sent a letter to HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt asking for reimbursement of costs New Jersey has incurred because of problems with the drug benefit.
New Jersey Gov. John Corzine (D) has said the state is spending $1.3 million a day to provide prescription drug benefits to beneficiaries who are experiencing problems. New Jersey is one of five states that have filed a lawsuit against HHS, alleging they are being forced to help fund the drug benefit in violation of the Constitution. Texas, Kentucky, Maine and Missouri are also plaintiffs in the suit (Associated Press, 4/10).
The suit challenges the so-called "clawback" provision of the drug benefit. Under the provision, Medicare will assume the prescription drug costs for dual eligibles, but states will have to pay the federal government as much as 90% of the estimated amount they would have spent on Medicaid coverage for medications for residents dually eligible for Medicare and Medicaid. The rate will decrease to 75% over time (California Healthline, 3/6).