Carper Introduces Legislation to Waive Medicare Enrollment Penalty

Bill Would Allow Seniors to Sign Up Later This Year Without Facing Premium Increases

WASHINGTON (May 16, 2006) – In order to give seniors additional time to sign up for Medicare’s new prescription drug plan, Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., and a group of bipartisan senators today introduced legislation that would waive the drug benefit’s late-enrollment penalty for 2006. Under current law, those who were eligible for the new Part D plan but didn’t sign up before yesterday’s deadline of May 15th will be charged a penalty – about a one percent increase in premiums for each month they delay entry into the program. But the new legislation, sponsored by Carper, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles Grassley, R-Iowa., Finance Ranking Member Max Baucus, D-Mont., and others, would allow seniors to sign up for the drug benefit penalty-free during the next open enrollment period, scheduled for Nov. 15th to Dec. 31, 2006. “Given the confusion surrounding the implementation of the new drug benefit, I think we should give seniors more time to figure out if this new benefit makes sense for them. Seniors shouldn’t have to pay a penalty if they sign up this year,” said Carper. “My hope is we can pass this common-sense legislation quickly so we can give seniors who are trying to weigh their options a little extra peace of mind.” The legislation would also provide additional money for Medicare outreach. An additional $18 million in 2006 would go to state-area agencies on aging and to State Health Insurance Assistance Programs (SHIPs) like Delaware’s own ELDERinfo. These programs provide vital help to seniors in determining which drug plan is right for them.