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You Could Save Thousands on Your Prescription Drugs (online only)
August 2010
By Bob Moos

Does the idea of saving hundreds, maybe even thousands, of dollars each year on your Medicare prescription drugs interest you?

If youíre on a tight budget and have limited resources, you may be able to get extra help paying for the premiums, deductible and co-payments in your Medicare drug plan.

About one in three people with Medicare drug coverage get extra help. Thatís 10 million people just like you.

But many others who are eligible for the savings donít even realize it.

Recent changes in the law make it easier than ever to qualify. Even if you applied and didnít qualify before, you may be eligible now.

The amount of help youíd receive depends on your income and resources.

You may pay nothing for your monthly premiums or annual deductible and as little as $1.10 in co-payments for generic drugs and $3.30 for brand-name drugs.

You also may not have to worry about the ďdoughnut hole,Ē the gap in drug coverage when people pay the full cost of their prescriptions.

All told, the extra help can lower your prescription costs by 75 percent to 95 percent.

So, if youíre having difficulty affording your medications, itís worth checking out. More than 1.8 million people on Medicare may be eligible for extra help but arenít enrolled.

To get the subsidy, your resources canít be more than $12,510 if youíre single or $25,010 if youíre a married couple living together.

Bank accounts, stocks and bonds count as resources, but homes and cars do not.  Beginning this year, life insurance policies donít count, either.  

Also, your annual income canít be more than $16,245 if youíre single or $21,855 if youíre a married couple living together.

If you support family members who live with you, however, your income can be higher.

And, starting this year, the government wonít count any money you receive from friends or family for household expenses like food, rent, mortgage payments, utilities and property taxes.

If that sounds like you, give yourself a break and apply.

Or if you have parents or other loved ones who might benefit, reach out to them.  Summertime is always a favorite time for families to get together. Sit down with your mother and father and discuss their prescription drug coverage.

Helping them save money on their medicine is one of the best things you could do for them.

There are three ways to sign up:

Visit the Social Security Web site, socialsecurity.gov/extrahelp. The online application offers step-by-step instructions and lets you work at your own pace.

Call Social Securityís toll-free number, 1-800-772-1213 to apply over the phone or request an application. Ask for Form SSA-1020, fill it out and return it by mail.

Go to your local Social Security office and request help.

Itís not hard to complete the form. But youíll need your Social Security number and information about your bank balances, pensions and investments.

Social Security will review your application and send you a letter within a few weeks letting you know whether you qualify.

When you sign up for the low-income subsidy, Social Security can also help you apply for state-run programs that pay for some of your other Medicare costs.

Those are called Medicare Savings Programs, and depending on your resources and income, they can help cover the out-of-pocket costs for the other parts of Medicare.

Get in touch with Social Security today and start saving.

BOB MOOS is the Southwest regional public affairs officer for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services


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