For Immediate Release
Office of the First Lady
May 15, 2006
Mrs. Laura Bush, Secretary of Health and Human Services Michael Leavitt, and Administrator of Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Mark McClellan Attend Medicare Event
Shiloh Baptist Church
In Focus: Medicare
11:25 A.M. EDT
MRS. BUSH: Thank you, everybody, for coming out today. This is a reminder that this is the day to sign up, the last day to sign up for Medicare prescription drug coverage. If you are a low-income senior, qualify for low-income, you can continue to sign up after today. But I want to encourage people to sign up today for the prescription drug coverage under Medicare.
I want to thank Reverend Smith from the Shiloh Baptist Church here. Shiloh is one of the most distinguished churches in Washington, one of the oldest African American churches, and it's a church that's always had a ministry into the community. And they've had a great sign-up program so that their seniors can come and be helped with somebody younger who can run those computers and easily sign them up.
So I want to encourage people around the country to sign up today. If you're a daughter or a son of a senior, take your parents today. If you know how to use the computer as a daughter or a son, you can sign them up online yourself by www.medicare.gov. If you are at home by yourself and you want to make a phone call, there are just three things you need to do. You need to get your red, white and blue Medicare card, gather up all your prescriptions that you're currently taking so you can have a list of what your prescriptions are, and then you can dial 1-800-MEDICARE, and a counselor on the phone there will help you work through your different options.
And there are a lot of different options. I think our Secretary of Health and Human Services, Mike Leavitt, can talk a little bit more about that. But today the message really is to sign up today. Many, many seniors, millions of seniors, actually, across the United States have already signed up. And even if you are not taking any medications, it's really important to go ahead and sign up now, because as you age, it's likely that you will add medications to your health care.
So thank you very much, Reverend Smith. Thanks to Shiloh Baptist Church. People in Washington that need help can come right here to Shiloh Baptist Church today and sign up. Just be sure you bring your red, white and blue Medicare card and all of your prescriptions.
And so that will be it. Okay, Secretary Leavitt, do you want to say something?
SECRETARY LEAVITT: I'll just say briefly -- underscore what Mrs. Bush has said. We have a little more than 12 hours. There's no reason that literally thousands, tens of thousands more people could not enroll between now and then. She's given you the formula. There are just three easy steps: Get your drugs together, then find your Medicare card, and then call 1-800-MEDICARE, and there will be people there who will help you choose a plan. In less than 30 minutes, you can choose a plan. Now, today is the final day. The wait times might be a little longer than they have been in previous days, but if you'll stay on the phone, we're going to make sure that we get everyone who attempts to sign up enrolled.
More than 37 million people now have the benefit of prescription drug coverage in our country. This is perhaps the most significant step in health care in some 40 years, and we're delighted with the outcome. I'll ask Dr. McClellan to give you more details, and perhaps introduce you to some people who have had the benefit of enrolling today.
DR. McCLELLAN: Thank you, Mr. Secretary, and First Lady. It's a pleasure to be here today. Over the past year, we've been all over the country -- in churches and community centers, seniors' organizations -- trying to reach people with Medicare where they live and work and play and pray. We've also been working to reach their family members and caregivers, and as a result, we have seen enrollment in the drug benefit exceed expectations.
At this point, we're pushing to get 90 percent of people with Medicare into good, secure drug coverage. That's a historic achievement. It's never happened before in the history of Medicare, and it's happened just in a matter of months because of all the strong partnerships we have in communities all across the country. And Reverend Smith and the Shiloh Baptist Church are a key part of that.
Some of the people we met this morning include some nice ladies like Edna Frazier up here with me, and Lasava Tidwell, who is working with us, as well. And Edna, do you mind saying a couple of words about your experience here?
SECRETARY LEAVITT: Edna is a very good example of someone we're looking to find, and that is, Edna is helping her mother. There may be children of seniors all over America who could make a call today and make a real difference in the life of their parent. Edna, tell them a little bit about your experience.
MS. FRAZIER: I'm a caregiver for my mother, have been for the last 12 to 15 years. And I heard about this -- I'm a last-minute person, sort of -- and I heard about this Saturday through a breakfast that our Councilman Vincent Orange had, that they were having registrations today at Shiloh Baptist Church. So I came down to sign up for my mother.
And I'm real satisfied with the program that I signed her up for. I signed her up for Humana, and it saves her a lot of money on her prescription drugs. So that's a big help to her, and me, too.
SECRETARY LEAVITT: Good for you.
MS. FRAZIER: Thank you so much.
MRS. BUSH: Thank you very much.
SECRETARY LEAVITT: This is another very good example of someone we're looking to reach for. Remind me your name.
MS. MILLER: Ollie Miller.
SECRETARY LEAVITT: Ollie has been enrolled for some time now, but wanted to change plans to make certain she had the plan that was right for her. Seniors have had the ability to change through this period. An interesting fact that has surprised us in many ways, one is that Congress established a single plan called the Standard Plan. Only 10 percent of seniors signed up for that plan; 90 percent chose a plan that could be tailored to their needs. And she's a good example of what happened. Tell them a little bit about your situation.
MS. MILLER: Well, in December I signed with United American, and they covered all the drugs that I take. But I found it to be very expensive. So I came in today to see if I could do better, and I did. I am now with Humana, and I'm very pleased to save a couple of dollars.
SECRETARY LEAVITT: Good for you. Thank you very much.
MRS. BUSH: First, I just want to thank the media for getting the story out. It's very, very important that you continue to announce all day today that this is the last day to sign up. People in this local area and community can come to Shiloh Baptist Church, where someone will help them sign up online. Otherwise they can gather up their medications, get their red, white and blue Medicare card, and call 1-800-MEDICARE, and a counselor will help them.
If they have young family members, grandchildren or children who
are computer-savvy, their grandchildren or children can help them sign
up by going online to www.medicare.gov
SECRETARY LEAVITT: Now, if there are a couple of questions, Dr. McClellan, I'm sure, knows the answer.
Q Secretary Leavitt, some are still calling for an extension of the deadlines -- why don't you?
SECRETARY LEAVITT: We are -- as has been indicated, anyone who qualifies for low-income assistance can continue to enroll. We think that's more than half of those who have yet to enroll. There will be some who just choose not to. But every program has a deadline, and May 15th is the deadline. If people are hearing us today, there's no reason they should have to have the deadline be a factor. We still have almost -- more than 12 hours. We'd like to have them bring their prescription drugs, get their card and call us, and we will, in fact, in half an hour, be able to help them select a plan.
This kind of additional premium has been part of Medicare for more than 40 years, and we're going to work hard to make certain as many people are enrolled as possible today.
Q If there's still confusion about signing up and people are not able to make a decision, why not drop the penalties for late sign up?
SECRETARY LEAVITT: Well, again, the additional premiums have been part of Medicare for more than 40 years, and it's done in a way to create a sense of fairness for those who sign up, because those who sign up later generally are more expensive because they put it off until just before they need the care. So this is a function of the way Medicare has worked for many years, and we're just delighted by the fact that 37 million have already chosen to enroll, and hope very much to see tens of thousands more do it in the next 12 hours.
DR. McCLELLAN: We've seen many people respond to the deadline coming up. They know that now is when the maximum assistance is available. At 1-800-MEDICARE we're getting very heavy interest there, and we appreciate people having a little bit of patience when they call in. At medicare.gov and at events all over the country, like this one right here at Shiloh Baptist Church, this is the day when you can get all of that help.
So if you've got questions, now is the time to look into it; maximum assistance is available.
Q Are you here today because there's a lag in the poor signing up?
SECRETARY LEAVITT: No, we're here today to celebrate the fact that 37 million have already enrolled, and that over the course of the next 12 hours we may get tens of thousands more. There's not been a sign up with this kind of success in a new government program in the history of Medicare. And we're delighted by that, but believing -- if we can push just a little harder, 90 percent -- 90 percent of those who are qualified may have enrolled and we'll be pleased with that.
Well, thank you all very much.
END 11:35 A.M. EDT