According to the Medicare D(isaster) legislation, the deadline for the enrollment period is May 15 of this year.  However, there have been many complaints that there are too many plans to choose from, as well as the hidden restrictions in several of the plans.  Despite these concerns, gwb is refusing any extension of the enrollment period because

“No, and the reason why is there’s got to be a fixed time for people to sign up.”

 He has given no specifics as to why the time period must be fixed.  Instead, he has ignored the concerns of those he is elected to serve and is forcing people to make a hasty decision, under the guise of an advisory soft-sell.

Sen. Orrin Hatch has also joined in to urge people to take the May 15 deadline “seriously” and investigate plans, rather than hoping for an unlikely extension.

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However, last month, Senate Republicans pushed an amendment offerred by Charles Grassely that would give the Michael Leavitt the authority to move the deadline back if people need more time to enroll. It passed 76-22.

But, Robert Hayes, president of the Medicare Rights Center stated,

“The secretary must not turn his back on the millions of Americans who need drug coverage.  People continue to be paralyzed by the array of confusing private drug plan choices and anxious that they will be locked into a plan that does not meet their needs.”

The intricacies and the limitations of the available Medicare D(isaster) plans have been documented by Henry Waxman and hearings have taken place.  In addition, there is an ongoing investigation by Pete Stark into some of the sales tactics of some insurers.

The efforts by the Medicare Rights Center in advocating for an extension of the deadline have been encouraged.  According to Peter Hebertson, outreach program manager for Salt Lake County Aging Services, the agency has been taking calls and assisting with enrollment questions since Nov. 15 2005. He also is of the opinion that an extension is necessary.

“It would be very beneficial and only fair to extend the deadline some. We were behind at the beginning because of the computer issues with Medicare. We’ve done a good job getting through to those people. But it’s starting to pick up again with the deadline approaching, and we know it will be crazy May 1.”

However, Mark Levine, of the Denver region of the CMS, stated,

“It appears as though, without a special change of law, it would not be possible to extend the deadline.  If you are one of the 76,441 [Utahns] who have not enrolled . . . it might be time to revisit it and make a decision before May 15.”

Last month, Charles Grassley said, “Personally, I think that it’s premature to change the date. So I offer this amendment [giving Leavitt the authority to extend the enrollment period] as a compromise.”

Guess some in government and at CMS haven’t heard or read anything about it!!!

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