Administration touts success of drug plan enrollment

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About 4.9 million elderly have enrolled themselves in the new Medicare prescription drug benefit over the past three months, according to the Bush administration.

While the administration is touting the numbers as a sign of the program's success, others see the numbers as disappointing. The number of enrollees represents just one quarter of the 22 million elderly and disabled people who are eligible to voluntarily enroll in the program.

Nearly 20 million beneficiaries also were enrolled automatically when so-called dual eligibles were switched from Medicaid coverage to Medicare. Most nursing home residents are included in this group, though various problems have been reported by providers around the country.

Enrollment is "moving rapidly" toward the 28 million to 30 million goal for first-year, said Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt.

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