2008-11-07 / Columnists

Social Security And You

Medicare Prescription Drug Plan Open Season Begins November 15
Commentary By James Glasser, Manager, Far Rockaway Social Security Office

James Glasser James Glasser The next open season for enrollment in the Medicare Part D prescription drug program is rapidly approaching. Newly eligible Medicare beneficiaries, and current beneficiaries who are considering changes to their Medicare Part D plan, should mark their calendars for November 15. The "open season" will run from November 15 to December 31.

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

While all Medicare beneficiaries can participate in the prescription drug program, some people with limited income and resources also are eligible for extra help to pay for monthly premiums, annual deductibles and prescription co-payments. In 2008, the extra help is worth an average of $3,600; in 2009, it's worth an average of $3900.

To figure out whether you are eligible for the extra help, Social Security needs to know your income and the value of any savings, investments and real estate (other than the home in which you live). To qualify you must be receiving Medicare and also have: Income limited to $15,600 for an individual or $21,000 for a married couple living together. Even if your annual

income is higher, you still may be able to get some help with monthly premiums, annual deductibles and prescription co-payments. Some examples where your income may be higher include if you or your spouse: —Support other family members who live with you;

—Have earnings from work; or

—Live in Alaska or Hawaii.

Resources are limited to $11,990 for an individual or $23,970 for a married couple living together. Resources include such things as bank accounts, stocks and bonds. We do not count your house or car as resources.

You can complete an easy-to-use online application for yourself or someone you care about at www.socialsecur ity.gov. Click on Medicare on the top right side of the page. Then click on "Apply for help with prescription drug costs." To apply for the extra help by phone or have an application mailed to you, call Social Security at 1-800-772- 1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) and ask for the Application for Help with Medicare Prescription Drug Plan Costs (SSA- 1020). Or go to your nearest Social Security office.

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

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