Statement from Senator Maria Cantwell on the Upcoming Medicare Rx Benefit Enrollment Deadline
As many Washingtonians may already know, next Monday, May 15th marks the enrollment deadline for the new Medicare prescription drug benefit. Seniors who sign up after May 15, 2006 will incur penalties that will stay with them for as long as they are enrolled in the Medicare Prescription Drug Program. Today, more than 60 percent of eligible Washington seniors have not yet enrolled; and of those eligible for a low income subsidy, 80 percent have not signed up. While I am working with many of my colleagues to extend the enrollment deadline and waive the late enrollment penalty, there is no guarantee that an extension will be granted. I urge all Washington seniors to consider whether or not the Medicare Prescription Drug Program is right for them this week as to avoid costly late penalties.
This new benefit, which began in January, is voluntary and allows participants to choose from a wide variety of Medicare-approved plans with different premiums, deductibles, and co-payments, providing different drug coverage through different pharmacies. You have a lot of options which means more choices, but it also means those choices are more complicated. It's important to get the details about available plans, discuss your health needs with your family and doctor, and make an informed, confident decision.
As you sort through the fine points of the Medicare drug-benefit and particular plans, it's critical to be wary of one-sided information. Do not choose any one plan based solely on information provided by the company sponsoring that plan. Rather, seek out independent sources of information, evaluate all of your options, and contact the Washington Statewide Health Insurance Benefits Advisors (SHIBA) at 1-800-562-6900 for further assistance.
Ultimately, Washington seniors deserve an effective, reliable Medicare drug benefit. And American taxpayers deserve an efficient, well-managed program. I continue working in the U.S. Senate to improve and refine Medicare's drug coverage. Together, we can make prescriptions more affordable and accessible while improving seniors' control over their own health care decisions.