Poolman renews call for extension of Part D deadline
Posted on 5/19/2006
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Jim Poolman
May 19, 2006
Bismarck, ND - Insurance Commissioner Jim Poolman today renewed his call to extend the Medicare Part D signup deadline. Legislation was introduced in Congress on May 16 by Senator Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa that would waive the late sign-up penalty. In addition, Rep. Nancy Johnson, R-Iowa, who is chair of the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Health, has introduced companion legislation in the House.
"Waiving the penalty for signing up late is simply not good enough for our seniors. They should not have to wait for affordable drug coverage until next November when they just ran out of time." Poolman added, "As of May 7, 2006, there were around 28,000 seniors across North Dakota that did not have drug coverage. An extension of the signup period would be an easy and quick way to help those folks get the information they need to make a decision about signing up for Part D."
Poolman initially voiced his concerns regarding the deadline and the complexities of the program last January in separate letters to Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt and the North Dakota Congressional Delegation. In addition to a deadline extension, Poolman also is calling for a standardization of and limit on the number of plans available.
"It is time for Congress to work through this issue in a bipartisan way and make these changes for the good of our seniors all across the country. I encourage members of Congress to take these bills one step further-extend the deadline and simplify the plans."
Poolman noted, "In 1992, the Medicare Supplement plans were standardized. Under these plans, seniors retain a choice of twelve plans and the industry remains competitive. Forty-one Medicare Part D plans are currently offered in North Dakota. This can create confusion in the marketplace."
The Department's Senior Health Insurance Counseling (SHIC) Program, along with volunteers and partners continues to assist seniors with Part D. North Dakota's SHIC program has the highest sign-up rate in our region.
For information or assistance in enrolling for Medicare Part D, call the SHIC program at 1.888.575.6611.