Washington — As the deadline for enrolling in the Medicare drug plan approaches, the government has announced that seniors and disabled beneficiaries may have to pay as much as 7 percent more for their benefits next year.
The early estimates of next year's cost increases come as officials are launching an all-out drive to get drug coverage for at least 90 percent of seniors, either through Medicare or an employer-provided retiree plan, by May 15.
The program has attracted about 30 million elderly and disabled people, officials said Thursday, or nearly 90 percent of those eligible.
To reach that goal, Medicare must sign up nearly 3 million people in about three weeks. Some lawmakers are seeking to extend the deadline to keep seniors who do not sign up in time from having to pay financial penalties mandated under current law.