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Reform Jewish Movement Urges Congress to Extend Deadline to Sign Up for Medicare Prescription Drug Coverage

Pelavin: Let us honor our commitment to our senior citizens and ensure the wellbeing and dignity of the disability community by ensuring the passage of the Medicare Informed Choice Act (H.R. 3861/S. 1841).

Contact: Emily Kane or David Morrill Schlitt, 202.387.2800,

WASHINGTON DC, May 9, 2006 – Mark Pelavin, Associate Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, issued a letter today calling for an extension of the May 15th deadline to sign up for Medicare Prescription Drug Coverage. The full text of the letter follows:

Dear Member of Congress,

Thanks to the new prescription drug benefit, this year many seniors and Americans with disabilities will receive drug coverage under Medicare for the first time. Given the vast and growing number of seniors on fixed incomes dependent on prescription drugs, Medicare Part-D addresses a vital need: according to Families USA, a senior citizen living at 150 percent of the poverty level and suffering from acid reflux disease could be expected to spend a full 12 percent of her income on medication, if she were to lack prescription drug coverage. Hopefully, with the introduction of Medicare Part-D, this will never have to be the case again.

While we applaud Congress for taking steps to ensure that senior citizens have access to life-saving drugs, we recognize that Medicare Part-D has some serious flaws. In most parts of the United States, eligible applicants have the option of choosing from more than 40 different plans being offered by scores of private insurers. Many seniors have described Part-D as being overwhelming and unnecessarily complicated. According to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll released in February, when seniors were told that they had over 40 choices of drug plans in many regions of the country, and asked if they thought this amount of choice was helpful, two-thirds of seniors responded that having such a large number of choices makes it confusing and difficult to pick the best plan. As a result, Americans have been enrolling for the prescription drug benefit in numbers smaller than anticipated. Additionally, members of the disability community constitute a large proportion of those having the most difficulty signing up – and these are often the populations with the greatest need for prescription drug coverage.

Currently, seniors and Americans with disabilities that sign up for Medicare Part-D after May 15, 2006 can be charged a penalty for late enrollment. Given the shortcomings of Medicare Part-D and the complications that have arisen in its implementation, we urge you to support the Medicare Informed Choice Act (H.R. 3861/S. 1841). This humane and sensible measure would extend the date for which Americans can apply for Medicare Part-D without a penalty from May 15, 2006 to December 31, 2006. As Reform Jews, we believe the health of the community to be a shared societal obligation, and we heed the words of Leviticus, which call on us to “rise before the aged.” (Leviticus 19:32) Let us honor our commitment to our senior citizens, let us ensure the wellbeing and dignity of the disability community, and let us honor our shared religious traditions that command to care for the most vulnerable, by ensuring the passage of the Medicare Informed Choice Act (H.R. 3861/S. 1841).

Mark J. Pelavin,
Associate Director, Religious Action Center

The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the
Union for Reform Judaism, whose more than 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, whose membership includes more than 1800 Reform rabbis.

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