Health Advocates Continue Drug Benefit Education Efforts
Just days after the May 15 enrollment deadline for the Medicare prescription drug benefit, health advocates are saying they will continue their efforts to educate beneficiaries about the new program, the San Francisco Chronicle reports (Colliver, San Francisco Chronicle, 5/18).
CMS on Tuesday estimated that one million Medicare beneficiaries signed up for drug coverage in the week leading up to Monday's deadline, resulting in about 90% of Medicare beneficiaries having some form of drug coverage. An estimated 4.5 million Medicare beneficiaries still do not have prescription drug coverage, including about three million who are eligible for a low-income subsidy that offers low copayments and other discounts (California Healthline, 5/17).
"They're the hardest population to reach," CMS spokesperson Peter Ashkenaz said, adding, "The sense is these are people who probably qualify for other (government) programs but have never enrolled."
Some health advocates said they will continue to reach out to low-income beneficiaries in the coming months to inform them about the program.
"The biggest winners under (the drug program) are the people who have no coverage now and could be subsidized and get coverage," Jeanne Finberg, directing attorney for the National Senior Citizens Law Center, said.
Clare Smith, executive director of California Health Advocates, said, "We know not everyone has signed up. Those who did manage to get in by the deadline felt rushed. Some are afraid they signed up for a plan that's not right for them" (San Francisco Chronicle, 5/18).
In related news, Rep. Jerry Weller (R-Ill.) on Tuesday said he plans to introduce legislation that would create another 60-day sign-up period for beneficiaries who did not meet Monday's deadline. The later deadline would allow beneficiaries to enroll in the drug benefit without penalty between June 15 and Aug. 15.
Noting that many beneficiaries were unable to get through to HHS to enroll in the program on Monday, Weller said, "We believe thousands of seniors did not get signed up in time" (Deshinsky, Peoria Journal Star, 5/17).