Bush about the Medicare health program

President Bush kicked off Thursday what he called a "massive" nationwide outreach to millions of seniors to make sure they are enrolled for the first-ever Medicare &to=http:// english.pravda.ru/world/ 20/91/368/10855_washington.html?2 ' target=_blank>prescription-drug benefit that begins in January.

Seniors can apply between Nov. 15 and May 15. Various local groups and volunteers will help with the process — from explanation to application. Those who enroll by the end of the year will be covered beginning Jan. 1.

Bush, who takes to the road today to carry the message to Maple Grove, Minn., said he is personally spearheading the 11-month education effort because he is worried that those low-income seniors who most need coverage might not get it. He said he is concerned potential beneficiaries may be confused by the forms or unaware of the benefits and how to apply for them.

The outreach effort is a response to criticism from AARP and some Democrats that the administration flopped badly in getting a temporary drug-discount card program for seniors off the ground in the past year, reports USA Today.

For the first time in its 40-year history, the federal &to=http:// english.pravda.ru/mailbox/22/98/396/14661_Bush.html ' target=_blank>Medicare health program will offer prescription drug benefits in 2006. The package is expected to cost taxpayers $500 billion in the first eight years, with most seniors paying an annual deductible of $500, plus a $35 monthly premium and some co-payments.

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