Bill waiving Part D penalty faces challenges

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Lawmakers likely will not be able to push through a bill that would eliminate the financial penalty for Medicare beneficiaries who sign up late for the Medicare prescription drug benefit.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles Grassley (R-IA) and ranking member Max Baucus (D-MT) have promoted a measure that would eliminate the penalty for those who sign up in November. But some senators have objected to the plan to clear the bill quickly, possibly signaling bigger problems ahead. The penalty amounts to a 1% increase in premiums for each month of delayed enrollment. May 15 was the deadline to enroll.

November is the next open enrollment period for beneficiaries who have yet to sign up for a drug plan. The legislation also would provide $18 million for efforts to help more beneficiaries enroll.