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Keith Chartier

Renal Business Todays editor Keith Chartier is a graduate of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University. Prior to joining Virgo Publishing in 2006, he covered the renal industry as editor for more than two years.

D-Day for Medicare

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The bell tolls at midnight tonight for Medicare beneficiaries who have yet to sign up for the Medicare Part D prescription drug benefit plan.

The penalty: the cost of the plan increases one percent for each month the potential beneficiary does not sign up. In all, that could be close to seven percent because the next enrollment date is not until November.

The Christian Science Monitor did a good job at breaking down the current Part D landscape in a May 15 article.

The penalty, however, remains a touchy subject for a lot of people, and some Republicans have joined Democrats in calling for a penalty waiver, which doesn’t look like a debate is going to happen until the final numbers are tallied from this round of sign-ups.

It still isn’t clear how many ESRD patients have signed up for the plan, even though it could be a huge benefit to them. According to the Medstat Group, a healthcare research firm, the average ESRD patient takes nine drugs—8.3 are, on average, covered by Medicare Part D.

The toll-free number to sign up for Medicare’s Part D is 1-800-633-4227, which will only be taking calls regarding Part D today. You can also visit the Part D homepage at www.medicare.gov/pdphome.asp.

Another Medicare Web site, www.cms.hhs.gov/center/provider.asp, also has helpful resources, such as a standard form physicians can use to request a drug exemption, a CMS formulary finder, and information specific to different medical fields—including ESRD.

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