Millions Not Taking Advantage of Medicare

By: Lindsay Puccio
By: Lindsay Puccio

December 28, 2005

The Medicare prescription drug benefit takes effect on January 1, 2006, but who will benefit? Out of seventeen million eligible Americans only one million have signed up and locally, the turnout has been just as low.

Millions of Americans are automatically enrolled, so they are set, but there are still millions of other medicare recipients that are on their own to sign up themselves, and this is not an easy process. Some seniors are blaming it on the complicated system.

"20,000 were eligible and we estimate that we have probably worked with at least 500 people," said Sally Mank, of the Jefferson Area Board of Aging.

It can be a daunting task. Between the complicated formulas and dozens of forms to fill out, Sally Mank said the confusion has kept people from signing up.

"It is not designed to really be easily understood by the average person," said Mank.

There's a lot to think about when picking a plan. Seniors not only have to consider the drugs they take now, but what drugs they may be taking in the future. The good news is: help is out there.

The Jefferson Area Board of Aging, or JABA, has even trained volunteers to help walk-ins and take phone calls.

The National Council on Aging has been touring the country helping beneficiaries sign up.

"My drugs cost me a lot every year and so it's going to save me not quite half, but close to half," said Shirley Kahn, a Medicare recipient.

The Council has also set up a website to help people enroll, and so has the Government. Those who don't use the internet can call Medicare directly at 1-800-Medicare.

Medicare officials said it's important that all those eligible at least try to sign up, because it will save seniors some hard-earned dollars.

There's plenty of time to sign up. The benefit may start January first but people have until May 15, 2006 to enroll.

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