Murray Calls for Waiving Prescription Drug Sign-Up Penalty

May 15 2006

With just hours to go before deadline, Senator, patients and pharmacists rally to fix program, cancel fines

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – With just hours to go before today’s deadline to sign-up for the Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Plan, U.S. Senator Patty Murray was joined by nearly 60 seniors, pharmacists and patient advocates to call on Congress to fix the flawed law and waive penalties for those who have not yet chosen a plan.

“Today, millions of seniors and the disabled are facing a choice that they are not prepared to make,” Senator Murray said at the Ballard Senior Center in Seattle. “Our seniors should have the time they need to make this critical health care choice – not be saddled with late fees or pressured into a decision that isn’t right for them.”

Midnight tonight marks the deadline to register for Part D and avoid a 1 percent premium penalty that will be assessed for each month that registration is delayed.

Since Medicare will not officially enroll those who sign up after today’s deadline until January 2006, anyone who signs up late – whether it’s a day after the deadline or five months – will pay a 7 percent premium increase on their prescription drugs for the rest of his or her life. Those who qualify for low-income subsidy enrollment will have one more opportunity to sign up before penalties are assessed.

Flanked by seniors and concerned community members, Murray – who voted against the plan in 2003 and has since introduced legislation to fix coverage gaps and extend today’s deadline – called on Congress to waive the late fees.

“Congress should act now to waive the penalties, fix the coverage gaps and make access to prescription drugs a seamless part of Medicare. Our seniors deserve better than a confusing process and Congress should take the time to get it right,” Murray said.

Over the course of the past year, Murray has held 14 roundtables across Washington state with seniors, health care professionals and patient advocates to discuss the impact that Part D is having on local families, pharmacies and communities. Across the board she has heard stories of confusion, difficulty choosing a plan, and problems with bureaucratic red tape when trying to sign up.

“This program is working for some of our seniors, but far too often I hear stories of confusion and fear. It is time for Congress to act and fix this plan so it works for all Americans.”