PREPARING FOR THE MAY 15TH ENROLLMENT DEADLINE
Time is running out to sign up for the Medicare Prescription Drug Coverage. The first enrollment period ends on Monday, May 15th. All people with Medicare are eligible for this benefit regardless of income or how many prescriptions they currently take.
Important Facts for People with Medicare to know about the May 15 Enrollment Deadline
- Plans must accept enrollments received through midnight on May 15, 2006 local time, based on the beneficiary’s place of residence.
- All enrollment applications must be postmarked by May 15th.
- All enrollment applications started by a broker or agent must be received on May 15th.
- All telephone or TTY enrollment applications must be received by midnight on May 15th based on the beneficiary’s local time.
- All online enrollments either on www.Medicare.govor on a plan’s website must be submitted and completed by May 15th. (This is true regardless of when a plan retrieves or downloads the application.).
- If an application inadvertently contains incomplete or incorrect information but is received by May 15th, the plan must start processing the application and immediately contact the beneficiary to obtain the missing or incorrect information to ensure the beneficiary is enrolled.
- CMS is ready to respond to case-by-case requests received after these times, where there are unforeseen delays or problems.
CMS has prepared for the May 15th deadline by:
- Providing enhanced customer support availability – over 6,000 Customer Service Representatives (CSRs) are ready to take calls and assist in enrolling people with Medicare on the 1-800-MEDICARE through midnight local time on May 15. For the past week, wait times, on average, were under three minutes.
- Increasing the capacity and ability to accommodate greater online enrollment on Medicare.gov, by quadrupling the number of servers for the system. For the past week, CMS has been utilizing only 15 percent of its server capacity.
- Enhancing the Medicare Drug Plan Finder web tool on www.Medicare.gov. Users can now:
- print their current drug list,
- see if their drugs are included on a plan’s formulary without having to go through all the steps on the Plan Finder,
- enter multiple dosages of the same drug,
- get a complete overview of a plan's benefit, specific for the medications the beneficiary/user entered,
- narrow the number of plans to compare, and
- save drug information so that they do not have to reenter their medication list each time they use the Web site.
- Increasing the availability of personalized assistance and counseling with well over a thousand enrollment events with local and national partners in communities across the country in the final week. These include local telethons; events sponsored by partners including My Medicare Matters, Medicare Today, the Access to Benefits Coalition, AARP, the Grange, and others; “Medicare Sundays” and other events involving faith-based organizations; activities supported by Area Agencies on Aging, the Social Security Administration, and other government agencies; and counseling supported by State Health Insurance Assistance Programs (SHIPs).
- Supporting many SHIPs who have increased volunteer staffing levels and will expand their office hours this coming week. CMS has been monitoring case backlogs, has assisted SHIPs by providing additional volunteers and creating new partnerships to add to their counseling resources. More specifically, CMS staff will provide additional technical support to all SHIP programs across the U.S., helping to answer questions and enroll beneficiaries. In addition, many SHIP offices will be staying open until midnight on May 15th.
- Promoting the enrollment deadline through both national and local print and radio advertising. These will include radio ads featuring Bill Cosby and a television PSA featuring First Lady Laura Bush.
Instructions to Prescription Drug Plans
- CMS has notified plans they must take specific steps to ensure they are prepared to deal with any surge in enrollment as the deadline approaches.
- Plans must accommodate all beneficiary enrollment requests through midnight of May 15th local time, including mailed requests postmarked by May 15.
- Plans must submit enrollment applications promptly, in order to assure beneficiaries will have coverage effective when they seek to use it in early June.
- CMS will closely monitor plans to ensure they are continuing to serve the needs of Medicare beneficiaries before and after the May 15th deadline.