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 Home > News & Policies > May 2006

For Immediate Release
May 10, 2006

Setting the Record Straight: CBS News' Misleading Medicare Report

     Fact sheet In Focus: Health Care
     Fact sheet In Focus: Medicare
     Fact sheet Setting the Record Straight

CBS News Misleadingly Reports That Only 8 Million Seniors Have Signed Up For Medicare Prescription Drug Coverage.  JIM AXELROD: "Hoping to nail down at least one clear success story for Republicans to run on this fall, Mr. Bush wants to add another million seniors to the 8 million already signed up." (CBS' "Evening News," 5/9/06)

But 37 Million Seniors Have Coverage. Of the more than 42 million people eligible for Medicare, more than 31 million people with Medicare now have Part D-related prescription drug coverage and hundreds of thousands more are enrolling now.  Nearly 6 million more eligible beneficiaries have an alternative source of coverage (i.e., they are covered by VA, Indian Health, or they are still working).  

Many People May Be Assisted By The Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit But Do Not Realize It.    There are 11 million seniors continuing their retiree coverage, and that retiree coverage is now partially subsidized by Medicare to make it more secure.  In addition, about 6 million seniors with Medicare and Medicaid were auto-enrolled. 

Today, HHS Announced That 9 Million Beneficiaries Have Signed Up On Their Own For "Stand Alone" Medicare Prescription Drug Coverage.  Over 1 million more people enrolled in prescription drug coverage between late April and May 6, bringing the total number of beneficiaries to about 9 million individual enrollees in "stand alone" prescription drug plans.  In addition, during the open enrollment period for drug coverage, over 1 million people have newly enrolled in Medicare Advantage health plans to get coverage.

CBS News Cites Poll Showing "Less Than 40 Percent Of Seniors Have Enrolled In The Program."  (CBS' "Evening News," 5/9/06)

But 37 Million Beneficiaries With Coverage Means Almost 90 Percent Of All Eligible Beneficiaries Now Are Either Enrolled In Medicare Drug Plans Or Have Other Sources Of Coverage.

CBS News Claims There Are "Still Some 7 Million Eligible Seniors Without Drug Coverage." (CBS' "Evening News," 5/9/06)

But There Are Only About 5.7 Million Seniors Who Still Need To Be Enrolled.  Of the 5.7 million people remaining, most (about 3 million) qualify for the low-income subsidy and therefore can enroll after the May 15 deadline.

CBS News Says Enrolling "Can Be A Confusing Process." (CBS' "Evening News," 5/9/06)

But There Are Just Three Simple Steps To Getting Drug Coverage Now:

  1. Eligible Beneficiaries Should Make A List Of Their Prescriptions Or Just Gather Their Pill Bottles.

  2. Eligible Beneficiaries Should Make Sure They Have Their Red, White, And Blue Medicare Card Handy To Get Personalized Help.

  3. Eligible Beneficiaries Should Call 1-800-MEDICARE, Go To, Or Visit One Of The Many Sources Of Help Available.  On the Medicare website, it takes most seniors about one hour to sign up once they have their information about their healthcare needs.

There Are Many Local And Community Resources To Help Seniors And Their Family Members Find The Best Plan To Meet The Specific Needs Of Each Beneficiary. Medicare has built an unprecedented effort along with thousands of national and local partner organizations. More than 1,000 enrollment seminars are held each week.

CBS News/New York Times Poll Shows 81 Percent Of Seniors Think The Medicare Enrollment Deadline Should Be Extended.  (CBS' "Evening News," 5/9/06)

But Almost 90 Percent Of All Eligible Beneficiaries Now Are Either Enrolled In Medicare Drug Plans Or Have Other Sources Of Coverage.

Eligible Beneficiaries Have Had Almost Six Months To Utilize Resources From Medicare And In Their Community To Help Them Enroll In A Coverage Plan.  Even if eligible beneficiaries are uncertain about which plan is best for them, they should enroll in a plan now to avoid the late enrollment penalty and start saving money on their prescriptions.  Beneficiaries wishing to change plans can do so without penalty starting November 15. 

USA Today Editorial: "There's Plenty Of Help Available To Make A Decision Now."  "The deadline is forcing seniors – and their adult children – to act. Note that one in eight taxpayers file in the week before April 15.  Also, there's plenty of help available to make a decision now. Social service agencies, state insurance departments and pharmacies are helping seniors navigate the system. More than 1,000 enrollment seminars are held each week."  (Editorial, "Views Of Medicare Plan Shift," USA Today, 4/17/06)

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