CMS bends contingency plan as drug plan deadline approaches

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The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is anticipating a flood of Part D enrollment applications as the May 15 deadline nears. As a result, it has enacted temporary policy changes to ensure that insurers accept applications that otherwise might be considered late.

In the contingency policy, CMS specifies 10 expectations the agency has of providers. These include accepting all mailed applications post-marked on or before May 15, even if the application is not actually received by the plan until a later date. The temporary policy also asks that plans consider even incomplete applications as successfully meeting the deadline, but the policy requests plans make every effort to contact the beneficiary to complete the application.

May 15 is the deadline for the initial enrollment period of the Medicare Part D drug program. Most beneficiaries enrolling after the date will incur a late enrollment penalty. Also, current beneficiaries not signed up by the deadline may not enroll in a Part D plan until the 2007 annual election period. The deadline does not apply to many current nursing home residents who are dual eligibles and have already been automatically enrolled in a drug plan.