37 million enrolled in Rx drug benefit

Thirty-seven million, of the roughly 42.5 million people eligible, have signed on to the Medicare Part D prescription drug benefit as of May 7, the latest figures from the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) show. The 37 million enrollees include: *8.9 million with Medicare enrolled in stand-alone prescription drug plans.  *5.9 million Medicaid/Medicare beneficiaries who were automatically enrolled.  *5.9 beneficiaries receiving coverage through Medicare Advantage programs. *6.9 million retirees. *3.5 million federal retirees. The penalty for those missing today’s deadline is 1% per month they delay. “It means that if you don’t enroll by tonight, the next time you can enroll is November 15, with coverage beginning on Jan. 1, 2007," Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services spokesman Peter Ashkenaz told MM&M. "That means a penalty of 7% of the national average premium next year,” he said. Ashkenaz also explained that it would be difficult to determine a standard time when enrollees would hit the much discussed “donut hole” in coverage. “An important thing to remember is that 90% of people are in plans that are not the standard benefit. There are a number of plans that do begin to fill parts of the donut hole so the issue is not as big of a deal,” he said. Ashkenaz estimates there are about 40,000 volunteers on the ground helping to enroll those eligible from a variety of different groups including the AARP, various local groups on aging, the Access to Benefits Coalition, NAACP and the National Medical Association.