Groups Support Waiver for Drug Benefit Penalty
A group of advocacy organizations on Wednesday sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) urging them to act on legislation that would waive a financial penalty for Medicare beneficiaries who missed the May 15 deadline for enrolling in the prescription drug program, the AP/Sacramento Bee reports (Freking, AP/Sacramento Bee, 9/13).
Senate Finance Committee Chair Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and ranking member Max Baucus (D-Mont.) in May introduced a bill (S 2810) that would eliminate the penalty -- equal to a 1% increase in premiums for each month of delayed enrollment -- for beneficiaries who sign up for a drug plan during the next open enrollment period, which begins Nov. 15.
The legislation also would provide $18 million for efforts to help more beneficiaries enroll (California Healthline, 6/6). The bill has 45 co-sponsors "but has stalled because of objection," the AP/Bee reports.
Similar legislation introduced in the House also has stalled. The letter -- signed by the National Council on Aging, Easter Seals, the Alzheimer's Association and other groups -- states, "Many beneficiaries were unaware or confused about whether or how to enroll in the Part D benefit and should not receive a lifetime penalty as a result."
The penalty, which would continue as long as a beneficiary participates in the drug benefit, affects beneficiaries who were eligible to sign up in the first enrollment period this year but did not do so. Newly eligible beneficiaries and low-income beneficiaries who qualify for special assistance do not have to pay the penalty (AP/Sacramento Bee, 9/13).