After months of refusing the idea of extending the enrollment deadline for Medicare’s prescription drug benefit, Iowa Senator Charles Grassley has done an about-face.
During a news conference in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, Grassley announced he’ll push a bill that would let seniors sign up for the new prescription drug benefit during the next enrollment period and not face a penalty for tardiness. Under current law, those who sign up after midnight this past Monday will pay a “penalty” premium of two-dollars-and-31 cents this year.
That penalty will go up in future years. According to Medicare, two-point-seven million elderly Americans will have to pay the penalty because they missed the sign-up deadline. The government has already waived Monday’s deadline for low-income seniors. During a meeting with reporters in Washington, Grassley said it “takes people time to learn about new benefits available to them.”
Grassley hopes to get the bill advanced through the Senate as early as this week. It would let the elderly enroll in the program, starting November 15th, without paying that penalty on their premiums. Grassley was a co-author of the 2003 legislation that established the prescription drug benefit which will cost the government an estimated 58-billion dollars a year.