Topeka State officials on Thursday urged President Bush to fix problems with the new federal drug program for low-income senior citizens.
"The time for all levels of government to act is now," Gov. Kathleen Sebelius said in a letter, signed with 13 other Democratic governors, to Bush.
Nationally, thousands of low-income senior citizens have had trouble enrolling in the new Medicare Part D drug benefit program. Kansas Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger said Thursday that pharmacies have been unable to confirm coverage, refills have been limited and telephone lines have been clogged for hours to get information.
"While well-intended, the new Medicare drug benefit has caused confusion, mismanagement and a bureaucratic nightmare," the Democratic letter said.
Last week, Sebelius said the state would step in and help pay for medicine for beneficiaries who were having trouble signing up for the program.
Praeger, a Republican, on Thursday also urged action by the Bush administration and Congress.
"We have serious problems with Medicare Part D," Praeger said.
"The plan holds much promise, and I salute the president for his leadership on this issue. However, experience has now shown us that we need to modify Part D," she said.
Praeger said her office and others have received hundreds of phones calls about the plan. She called on Bush and Congress to delay the May 15 sign-up deadline.
"Given the issues we now face, that would be unfair and would create another logjam that could overwhelm the system," she said.
And Praeger has requested legislation to require that private plans register with the Insurance Department "giving us the ability to advocate for our senior consumers on problems related to Medicare Part D."
She also urged senior citizens to call her office if they need help at 1-800-432-2484.
Meanwhile, the Bush administration has pledged to persuade the insurance plans to repay those states that have jumped in to help.
Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt said Tuesday that 24 million people were now enrolled in the plan and that "for the vast majority, it is working very well." But he acknowledged there were "a couple of small groups it's not working well for," including some low-income people.