Throughout the country, senior citizens are anxiously sorting
through medication lists and co-payments associated with the new
Medicare Part D prescription benefit; in California alone, there
are 48 prescription drug plans offered. If they fail to make their
choice by the May 15 deadline, they’ll be required to pay 1 percent
of their monthly premium for every month that elapses between May
and the month they eventually enroll; since the next enrollment
period begins in November, the lowest possible penalty is 7
percent. Mike Leavitt—Secretary of the Department of Health and
Human Services—said the government wants as many retirees enrolled
as possible by May 15, despite pressure from a vocal minority of
congressional Democrats and Republicans—including Santa Barbara
Congresswoman Lois Capps—to extend the deadline until December

Phone lines at the county’s Health Insurance Counseling and
Advocacy Program (HICAP) are ringing off the hook, according to
Program Manager Bill Pate. While the program usually counsels about
150 people per month, lately the number has jumped to about 50
people per day, he said. “The problem is, the people deciding are
fairly elderly,” said Gary Forssell[TK], the pharmacist at
Scolari’s on Milpas Street. “And insurance companies haven’t made
it easy to get the information. What they really need is a way to
compare how much it’s going to cost with each of the plans.”
Forssell[TK] said that in the first few months of the new program,
he was mostly assisting lower-income seniors who’d been enrolled
automatically by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
(CMS) and had no idea which plan they were in. This second wave of
confused beneficiaries tends to be people who either had insurance
or take little or no medication


Please note this login is to submit events or press releases. Use this page here to login for your Independent subscription

Not a member? Sign up here.