More than 2 million people signed up for the new Medicare Part D prescription program just before the enrollment deadline, bringing total enrollment to over 90% of Medicare beneficiaries, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services reports.
Due to a surge in enrollment between May 1 and the May 15 deadline for joining without penalty, more than 38 million seniors are now in the plan, CMS says.
Medicare recipients who did not enroll by May 15 will be unable to enroll in the drug plan until Jan. 1. After that, they will be charged a late-enrollment penalty equal to 1% of the national average premium for each month that they are not enrolled.
Beneficiaries have seen lower-than-expected average premiums because of strong competition among Medicare Part D plans offered by private insurers, CMS says.
In July 2005, CMS actuaries expected the average monthly premium for the prescription plan would be $37. But they now project the average premium in 2006 will be about $23.