Today is Deadline for Medicare Program

MAY 15, 2006 - Posted at 7:41 a.m. CST

LITTLE ROCK, AR - Time is running out.

Tonight is the deadline to sign up for the new Medicare prescription drug insurance plan without getting costly penalties, and volunteers are working with Arkansans 65 and older.  Gaye Humphrey of a regional center for the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services says organizations statewide are helping people choose prescription drug plans.  Humphrey says her agency increased the number of telephone support staff to handle enrollment questions this weekend.

The deadline is 11:59 p.m.

Arkansans can choose from about 40 plans administered by private companies, each with different premium costs and with different types of drug coverage.  Most premiums cost between $20 and $30 a month.

Earlier this year, problems with pharmacy reimbursements for the drug plan led to complaints and a January visit to the state by U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt.  Leavitt assured state officials that the federal government would help reimburse Arkansans for its expenses on the program, which cost the state more than $6 million.  The reimbursement is still forthcoming.

The number to call for assistance is 1-800-633-4227.

The Web site is

(Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)