2006-01-13 / Columnists

Social Security And You

Help Available With New Medicare Drug Program Costs
By James Glasser, Manager, Far Rockaway Social Security Center

James Glasser
James Glasser There is still time for Medicare beneficiaries to enroll in the new Medicare Prescription Drug Program. The initial enrollment period for the program runs until May 15, 2006. And for those with limited incomes and resources, there is still time to apply for extra financial help with the costs of premiums, deductibles and co-payments.

To qualify for the extra help, an individual must have total annual income below $14,355 and resources valued below $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 you will be using some of your money for burial expenses. Even if your income is higher, you still may be able to get some help if, for example, you or your spouse supports other family members who live with you, if you have earnings from work or if you live in Alaska or Hawaii.

Social Security is taking the applications for extra help.

You can apply for the extra help online at www. socialsecurity.gov or you can call Social Security toll-free at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778). Representatives are available Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Tell the representative that you want to apply for the Help with Medicare Prescription Drug Plan Costs.

Applying for extra help with Social Security is separate from selecting a Prescription Drug Plan. Even if you are approved for extra help, you still need to select the plan that best meets your needs. If you apply and qualify for the extra help but don’t join a plan, Medicare will enroll you in one by May 15, 2006, to make sure you get this important coverage. Of course, you do not have to be eligible for the extra help to join a Prescription Drug Plan. The extra help is in addition to the potential savings you may receive if you join a plan.

To get more information about the plans, what drugs are covered and the costs involved, you can contact the providers, Medicare or state and local organizations. Medicare has a toll-free number where representatives can answer questions by calling 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227). TTY users should call 1-877-486-2048. The Internet site—www.medi care. gov—also has information and an online enrollment center to assist you.

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