News...
May 9 , 2006

Time is Running Out

PIERRE, S.D. – The deadline for eligible Medicare recipients to sign up for a Medicare Part D Drug Plan is May 15, 2006. Enrollment help is available through the South Dakota Department of Social Services.

Medicare is a Health Insurance Program for people 65 years of age and older, some disabled people under 65 years of age, and people with End-Stage Renal Disease (permanent kidney failure treated with dialysis or a transplant). There are nearly 128,000 Medicare eligible citizens in South Dakota. Approximately 81,000 are currently enrolled in a Medicare Part D Drug Plan, but 47,000 people in our state still need to sign up before May 15, 2006.

“South Dakotans who are eligible for Medicare must enroll in a Medicare Part D Drug Plan before the May 15 deadline,” stated Gov. Mike Rounds. “We need those who have not enrolled, to do so this week. We also ask family members, friends and neighbors to help deliver this message. If you know someone that needs help, please put them in contact with our Department of Social Services.”

In order to assist people with enrolling in a plan, full time Department of Social Services’ offices statewide will remain open until 11 p.m. on Monday, May 15, 2006. Everyone eligible must understand that after May 15, their next opportunity to enroll is November 15, 2006 to December 31, 2006. However, coverage for people who enroll during this period will not take effect until January 1, 2007.

“We want eligible Medicare recipients to know help is available to assist them in choosing a prescription drug plan, but they need to do it soon because time is running out,” stated Department of Social Services Secretary Deborah Bowman. “Most importantly, we want them to feel secure in the plan they have chosen and understand that representatives at the state and federal level are here to help guide them through the process.”

If people do not join a plan by May 15, 2006, and they do not currently have a drug plan that, on average, covers at least as much as standard Medicare prescription drug coverage, they will have to wait until November 15, 2006 to join. When people do join, their premium cost will go up, on average, by one percent of the national premium average per month for every month that they wait to join. They will have to pay this penalty as long as they have Medicare prescription drug coverage.

To learn more about Medicare Part D Drug Plans, call 1-800-MEDICARE or visit www.medicare.gov.