Controversy brews over actual Part D enrollment

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Congressional Democrats have expressed concern over the accuracy of the government's reporting of enrollment numbers in the Medicare prescription drug benefit.

The number of actual enrollees in Medicare drug plans as of Jan. 13 is 14.2 million, according to the most recent data published by Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Yet, the Department of Health and Human Services, of which CMS is a part, says 24 million of the 42 million eligible Medicare beneficiaries are enrolled. Other sources indicate that only 3.6 million have voluntarily enrolled in the new prescription drug plans.

"The enrollment numbers for the new Medicare prescription drug program are inflated and misleading," said Sen. Debbie Stabenow, (D-MI).

The discrepancy may stem from the 10 million federal retirees and Medicare-age retirees who receive prescription drug coverage through their former employers. CMS has included this group in its enrollment numbers, but these seniors do not get their drug benefits directly from Medicare. They are considered covered beneficiaries because the government system "provides a safety net" for them.