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Congressman Jim Gerlach announced today that he has introduced legislation that would eliminate from the new Medicare Part D prescription drug benefit the penalty assessed to eligible seniors who sign up after the initial enrollment period.
“It’s not fair to place a financial penalty on those seniors who don’t need prescription medications now but might in the future,” Rep. Gerlach said. “My legislation would correct this fundamental unfairness and allow seniors to sign up for the new benefit, penalty-free during each year’s open enrollment period. We need to make it easier – not harder – for our nation’s poorest seniors to get the lifesaving medications they desperately need and this new benefit, without the penalty in place, will do just that.”
In the last three months, Rep. Gerlach has hosted more than a dozen town hall meetings on the new Medicare prescription drug benefit at various locations throughout his Congressional District. During many of these informational sessions, seniors have voiced concerns about the late enrollment penalty leading Congressman Gerlach to introduce H.R. 4557, the Medicare Prescription Drug Late Enrollment Penalty Repeal Act of 2005
As the law stands now, Medicare-eligible seniors have until May 15, 2006 to sign up for the new benefit or they will pay a penalty of 1 percent of the premium for every month you sign up after the May deadline. If, for instance, the premium is $50 a month and a senior signs up two months late, then current law would require them to pay an extra dollar a month, forever.