Obstacles Await Bill on Drug Benefit Enrollment Penalties
Senate Finance Committee Chair Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and ranking member Max Baucus (D-Mont.) are "encountering obstacles to quick passage" of a bill (S 2810) that would eliminate the financial penalty for Medicare beneficiaries who sign up for the prescription drug benefit in November, CongressDaily reports (Heil, CongressDaily, 6/5).
The legislation 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 in November. The legislation also would provide $18 million for efforts to help more beneficiaries enroll (California Healthline, 5/19).
The bill has 38 co-sponsors, but some senators have objected to Grassley and Baucus' plan to clear the bill by unanimous consent, according to a Grassley spokesperson. "We're still working through senators' objections and hope to receive passage of the bill when the senators return" from Memorial Day recess, the spokesperson said.
However, "it does not appear" that Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) will "quickly schedule the bill for a vote," according to CongressDaily. A spokesperson for Frist said that a decision has not been made on whether to bring the bill to the floor and that the matter depends on "overall timing" and the Senate schedule.
According to the spokesperson, Frist's decision on floor consideration "does not hinge" on the strength of final enrollment data, which Frist has said he wants to review before taking a position on eliminating the penalty (CongressDaily, 6/5).