Your View: We must fix a pitfall of Medicare Part D

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By Annabelle Fisher, Alexandria

To the editor:

Regarding the Senior Corner article by JoAnn Callender and Cedar Dvorin of Alexandria’s Division on Aging discussing prescription drug costs and Medicare Part D (“Save on prescription drug costs during open enrollment,” November 17), one very important fact left out of this column is that there is a penalty for those seniors who did not initially sign up for Medicare Part D.

I am one of those seniors who did not sign up for Part D as I don’t use that many drugs and I was a contractor providing mental health services to the military, and as such, did not have a health insurance plan with a drug component that could be rolled over to Medicare Part D.

When I had a malignant skin cancer diagnosis several years ago, I met with Dvorin who was working with Arlington County Department of Health and a volunteer for Alexandria’s VICAP program.

It was then that I learned that there is a penalty for me and anyone else who did not sign up for Part D, to the tune of 1 percent for every month and every year since I reached the age of 65 and signed up for Medicare during open enrollment, a one time only experience.

The chemo cream medication prescribed by my physician was very expensive and I needed to know if I was covered by Medicare parts A and B along with my Medigap plan. I had no coverage.

Since then, I have lobbied members of Congress, both Democrats and Republicans, and the majority of representatives I talked with were not aware of this penalty. When Part D was implemented during the George W. Bush administration, this penalty was included.

Apparently, members of Congress who have learned from myself and others about this penalty are not only surprised, but are doing nothing to eliminate the penalty. Shame on them.

I recently contacted Medicare to see how much this penalty would cost me as I decide what to do about a Medigap plan and perhaps consider a Medicare Advantage Plan, which states I must have Part D. The amount of money I would have to pay because of this penalty is now $700 dollars per year. Amazing.

This is totally unacceptable and more egregious since no member of Congress has taken the lead in eliminating this penalty. Obviously I am not a federal, state or local retiree and the fact that nothing has been done by our elected officials is a red flag, since I have brought this matter to their attention several years ago.

It is time for all seniors and others to speak out and insist that our elected officials do something about this penalty and eliminate it immediately. Wishful thinking?

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