Bush Pitches New Medicare Rx Coverage

President Bush kicked off a nationwide campaign on Thursday, telling older people to circle Nov. 15 on their calendars. That's when they can enroll for the new prescription drug coverage under Medicare.

"Starting this November, every American on Medicare (search) can sign up to get help paying for their prescription drugs," Bush said in a speech at the Health and Human Services Department.

Starting Oct. 1, information about the prescription drug coverage will be available to 42 million older people as well as people with developmental and physical disabilities and mental illnesses and HIV/AIDS (search).

Enrollment starts Nov. 15. The benefit begins this coming Jan. 1.

"Seniors can choose to take advantage of the benefit or they can choose not to. It's up to them," said Bush, who used the presidential podium to help spread the word about the new Medicare prescription drug benefit.

"There's plenty of time to make the decision" with enrollment between Nov. 15 and May 15 of next year, the president said.

"Beneficiaries should make their decisions as soon as they are ready, because enrolling before May will ensure that they pay the lowest possible premiums," Bush said.

During the next 11 months, doctors, nurses, pharmacists, state and local leaders and others will work to get out information about the benefit.

In Wisconsin and Indiana, for instance, more than 270 community leaders are finding ways to get word to people in rural areas, he said.

In Chicago, a food pantry and the Catholic archdiocese are involved in the effort. The Transportation Department is working with local agencies to post Medicare information in buses and at highway rest stops.

Information also can be found on the Medicare Web site and by calling, 24 hours a day, 1-800-MEDICARE.