We are punishing – under Medicare Part D – people who are old, sick and confused. And, since we are a government of the people, we use “we” literally.

It is the citizens of this country who are punishing old, sick and confused people for being old, sick and confused.

It’s just plain wrong.

We – and that means you – can do something about this.

Monday was the deadline for people to sign up for Medicare Part D, the prescription portion of the nation’s Medicare program. Despite calls to Congress to extend the deadline, given the rash of computer glitches and enrollment snafus nationwide that stalled and blocked sign-ups, the deadline stood firm.

As of Friday, 70,000 eligible Mainers still hadn’t signed up. A lot of them have tried, and tried again. The enrollment process has been problematic from the start and a lot of people who think they’ve done all the right things are still not enrolled.

And, because they didn’t enroll, they will be penalized 1 percent of their health-care premium for every month they don’t sign up.

The point of Medicare Part D is to provide low-cost access to prescription drugs to seniors and the disabled. How does this compounding punitive assessment help? It doesn’t.

Some federal lawmakers, including Reps. Michael Michaud and Tom Allen, supported extending the deadline. That’s not likely to happen now that we’re past that deadline. What we can do, though, is provide evidence to lawmakers that this punitive assessment on late sign-ups is cruel treatment of the very people Medicare Part D was drafted to help.

The Governor’s Office of Health Policy and Finance hears plenty of painful personal stories from people desperate for access to low-cost prescriptions. Our congressional delegation must hear these tales, and more.

Printed below are the phone numbers and addresses of our congressional delegation. Call them. Write to them. Plead with them to overturn the premium penalty.

If we don’t, and as we each get old, sick and confused, we’ll only have ourselves to blame for remaining silent.