27 Dec

Medicare deadline midnight Monday

first_imgNor is the drug coverage for just poor people. Any Medicare beneficiary is entitled to it regardless of income, McClellan said. The only seniors who shouldn’t feel any deadline pressure are those with drug coverage from elsewhere that’s as good as Medicare’s, such as from an employer. They won’t be penalized and forced to pay a higher premium if they lose or drop their insurance later and enroll in a Medicare plan. For everyone else, the eleventh hour is here. To accommodate an expected rush in the next three days, Medicare will have 6,000 telephone operators available at 1-800-633-4227. The agency has also quadrupled its computer capacity at www.medicare.gov. “It’s all hands on deck for us,” McClellan said. The agency is also participating in hundreds of community enrollment events. One of Medicare’s local partners, the Dallas Area Agency on Aging, opened its offices from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday to sign up seniors. “Bring your medications and your Medicare card, and we’ll help you do the rest,” said Carolyn Toliver, the Area Agency on Aging’s benefits counseling coordinator. She says the enrollment process takes 30 to 45 minutes. Toliver said her counseling staff would also help seniors on limited incomes apply to Social Security for extra assistance with their out-of-pocket prescription costs. Those who qualify for the extra help will pay no premiums or deductible for their coverage, and their co-payments will be only a few dollars for each prescription. By midnight Monday, the Bush administration projects it will have enrolled 31.4 million older adults and exceeded its goal of 28 million to 30 million this first year.PRESCRIPTION DRUG DEADLINE Medicare started offering prescription drug coverage Jan. 1. Seniors aren’t required to sign up. But if they want coverage, they have until midnight Monday to choose one of the private drug plans Medicare has approved. Texans may select from 47 plans. Monthly premiums average about $25. Under the standard benefit, seniors pay a $250 annual deductible, then 25 percent of the next $2,000 of drug costs. After that, seniors pay 100 percent of the next $2,850. Once beneficiaries have paid $3,600, they’re responsible for only 5 percent of any other drug bills.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREBasketball roundup: Sierra Canyon, Birmingham set to face off in tournament quarterfinalsMedicare’s actuaries have figured that 2 million fewer older adults would sign up for prescription coverage now if they were given another 7 months to do it. The holdouts fall into several groups, Leavitt said. Besides the habitual procrastinators, there are healthy seniors who don’t believe they need the insurance and people who think the benefit is for only low-income seniors. Medicare officials say both notions are wrong. “Even the healthy should sign up in case they get sick or injured,” said Medicare administrator Mark McClellan. “Buying a low-cost plan now will avoid paying a penalty later.” DALLAS – If you’re one of 5.7 million older Americans still lacking prescription drug coverage, government officials have a message for you: Time’s running out. You have until midnight Monday to enroll in a Medicare plan. After that, you won’t be able to sign up again until Nov. 15. And you’ll pay 1 percent more in premiums for each month you’ve delayed. Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt says Monday’s deadline won’t be extended, despite some lawmakers’ calls for it to be pushed back to the end of the year. “The deadline has worked – it’s helped seniors focus on this issue and act,” he said. “An extension would only allow people to put off what they could do today.” last_img

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