Voluntary enrollment for the new federal Medicare Part D Prescription Drug benefit began November 15, 2005 and will remain open for enrollment without penalty until May 15, 2006. Thereafter, Medicare allows for an open enrollment period annually from November 15th through December 31st. After the May 15, 2006 initial enrollment deadline, beneficiaries that have not enrolled in a plan, or beneficiaries that do not have “creditable coverage” (explained further below) will incur a 1% premium increase penalty for every month that they go without this coverage. “So, Medicare beneficiaries should carefully evaluate their options and try to make their enrollment decisions before the May 15, 2006 deadline,” said Christina Urias, Director of the Arizona Department of Insurance. If you enroll by December 31, 2005, the new Medicare Prescription Drug coverage will begin on January 1, 2006; enrollment after December 31, 2005 will delay the commencement of coverage into 2006.