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Should You Sign Up for Medicare Part D?

Doug Terwilliger, NEA Members Benefits

The next opportunity for Medicare beneficiaries to sign up for Part D prescription drug coverage starts November 15, and the window lasts until December 31. Coverage for people who enroll during this period begins January 7.

As we go to press, Congress has still not decided what to do about people who want to buy in but missed the May 15 deadline for initial enrollment.

The current law says those who were eligible for Medicare Part D in May but didn’t sign up then may have to pay a steep penalty on their premiums for the rest of their lives: 1 percent for each month late. NEA is pushing for elimination of the penalty, and many members of Congress agree.

There’s no penalty if you weren’t eligible before, or if you had drug coverage through an existing retirement health insurance plan that was at least as good as Medicare Part D last spring. (Medicare calls that “creditable” coverage, and you would have received a letter saying you have it from your health insurance plan.)

NEA supports eliminating the whole complex system of competing private plans and substituting a simple expansion of the traditional Medicare program, in which drug costs would be reimbursed in the same way as other medical costs.

NEA also supports allowing Medicare to negotiate with the drug companies for lower rates—that’s specifically outlawed by the current law, even though the Veterans Administration has negotiated deep discounts with drug makers. Medicare does negotiate payment levels with physicians, hospitals and other providers—just not drug companies.

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