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Enrollment Tops 30 Million for Medicare Drug Benefit

Location: Washington, DC

Enrollment Tops 30 Million for Medicare Drug Benefit

23,000 Sign Up in NM in Past Month; 88% Covered in Bernalillo County

Washington, DC - Congresswoman Heather Wilson is welcoming another 23,169 New Mexicans to the new Medicare prescription drug benefit, bringing the total to 207,265. In Bernalillo County, another 3,689 enrolled and 88 percent now have prescription coverage.

"This is excellent progress. Over the past month another 23,000 people signed up in New Mexico," Wilson said. "More and more seniors are looking at their options and seeing that the savings could help them."

"We need to keep helping seniors enroll, and make sure they know to get the extra help for those with limited incomes."

The Medicare Drug program is set up to subsidize retiree plans that are as good or better than Medicare if seniors want to continue with their existing plan. The Medicare Drug program also allows seniors to get their drug benefit combined with their managed health care plan if they wish -- called Medicare Advantage. With their strong presence in north-central New Mexico, many seniors in the Albuquerque area have chosen to get their prescription drug coverage through Medicare Advantage plans, primarily those operated by Lovelace and Presbyterian.

In a statement released last month, AARP CEO Bill Novelli said, "AARP is encouraged that enrollment in the Medicare prescription drug program remains strong. Today (March 23, 2006), Medicare announced that an additional 1.9 million beneficiaries signed up for a Medicare prescription drug plan over the past five weeks. With the Medicare drug program, more older Americans than ever before have access to affordable prescription drugs.

"The focus right now needs to be on helping people, not playing politics. Discouraging enrollment is a disservice to the millions who could be saving money on prescription drug bills," he said.

Medicare covers most seniors and many disabled Americans. All people eligible for Medicare qualify for the new prescription drug coverage, the first offered by Medicare in the history of the program. Enrollment began on November 15, 2005, and coverage began on January 1, 2006.

"This Congressional district has one of the highest sign-up rates in the nation," Wilson said. "This is a voluntary program and nobody has to sign up if they don't want to, but it's encouraging so many seniors are seeing the opportunity. We will keep working to make sure that everyone who wants to sign up can sign up."

Wilson has made helping seniors with the prescription drug program a priority for her office through mailed information, dozens of senior town halls, partnerships with other helping agencies and employers, Medicare fairs with providers and even telephone calls to constituents offering assistance. Her office has helped hundreds of constituents with Medicare Part D. The effort has clearly paid off as seniors in New Mexico's first district have found plans that work in substantially higher numbers compared to most other Congressional districts. Wilson has visited pharmacists and groups of seniors every week since the plan went into effect on January 1, 2006.

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