CMS rejects request for special enrollment extension

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The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has said "no" to an advocacy rights group that wants to establish a special enrollment period for the Part D drug benefit.

The Medicare Rights Center issued a report last week asking CMS to extend the May 15 enrollment deadline to Dec. 31, 2006, for beneficiaries not yet enrolled in the program. CMS officials point out that only Congress can extend the early enrollment deadline. The agency earlier this month created a special enrollment period for certain low-income beneficiaries.

Beneficiaries who have not signed up for the program by the May 15 deadline will face higher premiums after that date. An estimated 7 million eligible Medicare beneficiaries have not signed up for drug coverage, according to CMS. But some research groups estimate the number of beneficiaries who have yet to enroll is twice that figure.