Published Online: Saturday, July 1, 2006

Individuals affected by Hurricane Katrina are being given a special enrollment period (SEP) to change their Medicare prescription drug plans in 2006. Officials of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services said that people will be considered "evacuees" and eligible for SEP if they reside in any of the ZIP codes declared as meeting the level of "individual assistance" by the Federal Emergency Management Agency at the time of the hurricane.

The extended period means that Katrina evacuees will be able to join and switch Part D plans through December 31, 2006, without penalty. These individuals may change plans regardless of a change in residence or whether there are any other circumstances that require additional time to choose or change plans. To determine SEP eligibility, Medicare officials must first attempt to obtain proof that the individual is in the affected ZIP codes. If individuals cannot show proof, the plan must accept the beneficiaries'affirmation that they resided in an affected ZIP code.

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