By Bob Moos
Southwest regional public affairs officer for Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
If you’ve ever gone a day without your medications or cut your pills in half to make them last a little longer, there may be relief for you. People on a tight budget can get help paying for the premiums, deductible and co-payments in their Medicare drug plan.
About 10 million people – about one in three people with Medicare drug coverage – now enjoy the break. But another 2 million may qualify for the help yet don’t even realize it. They’re missing out on hundreds, maybe thousands, of dollars in savings each year.
Recent changes in the law make it easier than ever to qualify for the “extra help” program. Even if you applied and didn’t qualify before, you may be eligible now. The amount of additional assistance you’d receive depends on your income and resources.
If you qualify for full help, you’ll pay no more than $2.65 for a generic drug and $6.60 for a brand-name drug. If you qualify for partial help, you’ll pay no more than 15 percent of the cost of your drugs. The program is estimated to save someone $4,000 a year on average.
So, if you’re having difficulty affording your prescriptions, it’s worth checking out.
To get the subsidy, your resources can’t be more than $13,070 if you’re single or $26,120 if you’re a married couple living together.
Bank accounts, stocks and bonds count as resources, but homes, cars and personal belongings do not.
Also, your annual income can’t be more than $16,755 if you’re single or $22,695 if you’re a married couple living together.
If you support family members who live with you, however, your income can be higher.
In addition, the government won’t count any money you receive from friends or family for household expenses like food, rent, mortgage payments, utilities and property taxes.
Does that sound like you? Then give yourself a break and apply. Or if you have parents or other loved ones whom you think might benefit, reach out to them. Helping them save money on their prescriptions is one of the best things you could do for them.
There are three ways to sign up for extra help:
• Visit the Social Security website, socialsecurity.gov/extrahelp. The online application offers step-by-step instructions and lets you work at your own pace.
• Call Social Security’s 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.
It’s not hard to complete the form. But you’ll 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 extra help, Social Security can also assist you in applying 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 other parts of Medicare.
Get in touch with Social Security today and start saving.