WASHINGTON — Elderly Americans who failed to receive timely information about their current prescription drug plans from UnitedHealth Group and other suppliers will get an extra 45 days to choose coverage for 2007, the U.S. government said Thursday.
Don't miss these Health stories
More women opting for preventive mastectomy - but should they be?
Rates of women who are opting for preventive mastectomies, such as Angeline Jolie, have increased by an estimated 50 percent in recent years, experts say. But many doctors are puzzled because the operation doesn't carry a 100 percent guarantee, it's major surgery -- and women have other options, from a once-a-day pill to careful monitoring.
- Larry Page's damaged vocal cords: Treatment comes with trade-offs
- Report questioning salt guidelines riles heart experts
- CDC: 2012 was deadliest year for West Nile in US
- What stresses moms most? Themselves, survey says
- More women opting for preventive mastectomy - but should they be?
Herb Kuhn, acting deputy administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said the enrollment deadline would be extended until Feb. 15 for an estimated 250,000 people covered by Medicare Part D drug plans.
The Part D program, which allows health insurers to offer drug coverage under Medicare oversight, was launched in 2006 but allows participants to enroll or change plans once a year.
Advocates say the plans help make prescription drugs more affordable for the elderly, but critics have charged the program was designed to help companies to maximize profits.
UnitedHealth is the biggest provider of Medicare drug plans, with 5.75 million people enrolled as of Sept. 30. The company previously said it expected to add as many as 750,000 people during the open enrollment period scheduled to end Jan. 1.
However, because UnitedHealth and some other providers failed to mail timely information to current enrollees so they could compare the cost and coverage of plans for 2007, those enrollees will get 45 more days to make a decision, Kuhn told reporters.
“We’re still looking to make sure we have the right list of the others and hope to get that information out next week,” Kuhn said, referring to other companies that also did not send current enrollees timely information.
The government drug program has received more than 5 million phone calls about Part D drug plans since Nov. 15, he added.
Copyright 2012 Thomson Reuters. Click for restrictions.