Medicare offers ‘extra help’ for prescriptions

By Social Security Administration

The Medicare open enrollment period is the perfect time to talk about Medicare prescriptions and the ‘extra help’ available from Social Security.

Newly eligible Medicare beneficiaries and current beneficiaries, who are considering changes to their Medicare Part D (prescription drug coverage) plan, should act now. The Medicare open enrollment period runs through Dec. 7.

The Medicare Part D prescription drug plan is available to all Medicare beneficiaries to help with the costs of medications. Joining a Medicare prescription drug plan is voluntary, and participants pay an additional monthly premium for the prescription drug coverage.

While all Medicare beneficiaries can participate in the Medicare Part D prescription drug plan, some people with limited income and resources may be eligible for ‘extra help’ to pay for monthly premiums, annual deductibles, and prescription co-payments. The ‘extra help’ is estimated to be worth about $4,000 per year. Many Medicare beneficiaries qualify for these big savings and don’t even know it.

To figure out whether someone is eligible for the ‘extra help’, Social Security needs to know the income and the value of any savings, investments, and real estate (other than the home lived in). To qualify, a person must be receiving Medicare and have:

Income limited to $17,235 for an individual or $23,265 for a married couple living together. Even if the annual income is higher, one may still be able to get some help with monthly premiums, annual deductibles, and prescription co-payments. Some examples where an income may be higher include the person and their spouse:

• Support other family members who live with them;

• Have earnings from work; or

• Live in Alaska or Hawaii; and Resources limited to $13,440 for an individual or $26,860 for a married couple living together. Resources include such things as bank accounts, stocks, and bonds. A house or car does not count as resources.

Complete an easy-to-use online application or get more information by visiting: www.socialsecurity.gov/medicare. To apply for the ‘extra help’ by phone or have an application mailed, call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) and ask for the Application for ‘extra help’ with Medicare Prescription Drug Plan Costs (SSA-1020).

For more information about the Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Program, visit www.medicare.gov or call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227; TTY 1-877-486-2048).

HALF A CENTURY OF HELP WITH MEDICARE

On July 30, 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed Medicare into law with these words: “No longer will older Americans be denied the healing miracle of modern medicine. No longer will illness crush and destroy the savings that they have so carefully put away over a lifetime.”

For 50 years, the Medicare program has provided essential health care services for millions of people who are age 65 or older, disabled, or have debilitating diseases. Without Medicare, many people would not be able to pay for hospital care, doctor’s visits, medical tests, preventive services, or prescription drug.

A Medicare card is the most important piece of identification owned as a Medicare beneficiary since medical providers will request it when seeking their services. To replace a lost, stolen, or damaged Medicare card, do it online with a mySocial Security account at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount. Requesting a replacement card through my Social Security is safe, convenient, and easy. Going online saves a trip to the local Social Security office or unproductive time on the phone. Request a replacement Medicare card the easy and convenient way — online — and get it in the same amount of time as if applied in an office or over the phone — in about 30 days.

Fifty years ago, Medicare didn’t have as many options as it does today. As the largest public health program in the United States, Medicare includes four parts to keep you covered:

• Part A is insurance that covers inpatient hospital stays, outpatient care in nursing facilities, hospice, and home health care.

• Part B includes medical insurance for doctor’s services, medical supplies, outpatient care, and preventive services.

• Part C is a Medicare advantage plan that allows a person to choose their health care coverage through a provider organization. A person must have Part A and Part B to enroll in Part C. This plan usually includes Medicare prescription drug coverage and may include extra benefits and services at an additional cost.

• Part D is prescription drug coverage. There is a separate monthly premium for this plan; however, people with low resources and income may qualify for the ‘extra help’ with Medicare prescription drug costs from Social Security. Visit www.socialsecurity.gov/prescriptionhelp.

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