Senator wants bill passed extending drug enrollment deadline

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Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) is planning to try again to pass a bill that would extend the enrollment period for the Medicare prescription drug benefit from May 15, 2006, until Dec. 31, 2006.

The legislation failed last month after he attached the bill as an amendment to a budget reconciliation package. He did not receive the required number of votes to waive a stipulation that ruled the amendment out of order.

Meanwhile, staffing shortages in many states are delaying the start of the program. The delays could retard enrollment of as many as 30 million beneficiaries by the sign-up deadline of May 15. After that day, the government imposes penalties on enrollees.

Many seniors have to wait weeks for counseling because of the shortage.