2005-10-21 / Columnists

Social Security And You

By James Glasser, Manager, Far Rockaway Social Security Center

James GlasserJames Glasser There is still time to apply for extra financial help through the new Medicare prescription drug program that goes into effect on January 1, 2006.

These days, many Medicare beneficiaries may be trying to decide which of the Medicare plans to sign up for, since enrollment begins on November 15. But if you have limited income and resources, don’t forget to see if you can qualify for extra help to pay for part of the monthly premiums, annual deductibles and prescription co-payments under the new prescription drug program.

That extra help could be worth an average of $2,100 per year for those who qualify.

Social Security is taking applications now from Medicare beneficiaries who may be eligible for the extra help. To qualify, an individual must have total annual income below $14,355 and resources limited to $10,000.

The limits for a married couple living together are higher: $19,245

in combined annual income and $20,000 in resources. These resources can be slightly higher — an additional $1,500 per person — if some of the money will be used for burial expenses. Even if your annual income is higher, you still may be able to get some help if you support other family members who live with you; have earnings from work; or live in Alaska or Hawaii.

Some beneficiaries will qualify for the extra financial help automatically . Anyone who has both Medicare and Medicaid, or Medicare and Supplemental Security Income, or anyone whose state pays his or her Medicare premiums, will not have to complete an eligibility application.

Also, it is important that all beneficiaries understand that even if they qualify for the extra help, they still need to enroll in a Medicare-approved prescription drug plan to obtain both coverage and the extra help.

So remember: it is not too late to see if you qualify for some extra help with prescription drug costs. More than three million people have already applied. But if you are not one of them and you think that you might qualify for the extra help, you can complete an online application at www.socialsecurity.gov . Or you can contact Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) and ask for an application in the mail, or request more information. But the clock is ticking, so do it today, and then enroll in the new Medicare prescription drug program between November 15, 2005 and May 15, 2006.

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