Medicare penalty

To the editor:

The Medicare Part D late enrollment penalty is a growing issue that needs to be re-examined. Eligible Part D enrollees who have gone 63 days or more without creditable prescription drug coverage are penalized with a fee that is added to their monthly premium. Individuals below age 65 will pay until they turn 65; however, individuals 65 and older will pay this fee for the rest of their lives. According to the 2010 census, 9 percent of the 65-and-older population is living in poverty. When the age bracket with growing medical costs and stagnant incomes — in some cases inadequate incomes — is forced to pay a late enrollment fee for an indefinite amount of time, the system needs to be re-evaluated.

What is the basis for this late enrollment penalty? Are we teaching personal responsibility or the value of planning for the future? If that is the lesson to be taken from this penalty, then I feel as if the individuals affected by this policy may feel an air of condescension. The only acceptable reason for the existence of this penalty is that those who are penalized are making a back-payment to the Medicare pool to which they had not been contributing.  

Perhaps we should take a cue from the phasing-out process of the donut hole. There could be a way to phase out the late enrollment penalty for the individual by raising the percentage of the fee and gradually decreasing it, until there is no additional fee.