Beneficiaries elect for drug benefit, more than 90% to have coverage, CMS says

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Enrollment in the Medicare Part D drug program surged just before the May 15 deadline, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

More than 90% of Medicare beneficiaries now could have prescription drug coverage in the first year, CMS Administrator Mark McClellan said. That translates to about 38.7 million beneficiaries. Last week, the Bush administration said about 37 million out of approximately 43 million (85%) total beneficiaries had some form of coverage.

Meanwhile, several Republican lawmakers, including Sens. Nancy Johnson (R-CT) and Charles Grassley (R-IA) are considering legislation that would waive financial penalties for beneficiaries who sign up after this week's deadline. Under the current rules, beneficiaries who are eligible to enroll and who do not sign up before May 15 will have to pay a penalty of a 1% premium increase for each month of delayed enrollment.