Just hours remain ’til tonight’s (Monday’s) midnight deadline to sign up for Medicare’s new prescription drug benefit that’s now available to the nation’s senior citizens. Thousands of Iowans have waited ’til the last minute, but not Irene Mathis of Cedar Rapids. A social worker at the assisted living center where Mathis lives helped her sort through the paperwork in January. “She worked on that computer quite a little while to figure out what I should be on,” Mathis says. Elderly Iowans like Mathis have over 40 different prescription drugs plans from which to choose.
Officials says it’s important to register by tonight’s deadline, as those who sign up late will be penalized and won’t get the full prescription drug benefit. Under current law, people who wait until December to enroll will have just over two-dollars per month added to their monthly premium. That amount would rise annually.
Linda Dearinger of the Heritage Agency on Aging says every senior should sign up. “Even if you’re not taking medication, this is insurance and we buy insurance to protect us from what we think might occur in the future,” Dearinger says. The best way to sign up if you haven’t yet done so is to call 1-800-MEDICARE. That number is answered 24-hours-a-day and the government has hired thousands of extra workers to answer last minute questions before tonight’s midnight deadline.