Deadline for Medicare Drug Plan Approaches

May 15, 2006 -- 4:45 PM CDT


JONESBORO, AR -- Time is winding down, and people 65 and older have until 11:59 p.m. Monday, to sign up for the Medicare prescription drug program.

"Within the last few weeks, there has been quite a rush of people trying to sign up at the last moment," said Brandon Cooper of Soo’s Drugs.

Cooper said that some people are still leery of the new program.

"They're still calling and trying to figure out if they should just hold off...whether the whole program will be scrapped, or whether they should go ahead and sign up to avoid the penalty."

For those who miss the deadline, each month, there will be one percent added to their premium.

"With the average premium in Arkansas being about $ 30, if they forget and don't sign up now, and wait until November, the difference, actually add up to...maybe, a  couple of dollars," said Cooper. 

Pharmacists can't sign people up for the program, but the staff at the East Arkansas Area Agency on Aging can, and they have.    Most of their clients are good-to-go.

"Our clients were dual eligible...some of they were signed up automatically, and then we signed them up right away when needed, so we could get that out of the way," said Donna Monehan, Customer Service Manager.

The next open enrollment is in November, but those patients who turn 65 between now and then don’t have to worry.

"For each person whose birthday falls after this deadline, once they turn 65, they have three months before the month of their birthday, and three months after the month of their birthday," said Cooper.    

As the day progressed Monday, people had few options.

"The main thing people should focus on, if they think they do want to sign up today, is to go ahead and call the plans themselves, or just mail in an application today," said Cooper.

For more information on the prescription drug program, call 1-800-Medicare.