Medicare Part D Extra Help

The Medicare Part D (Prescription Drug Coverage) open season is from October 15 to December 7, 2012.  

As noted last week, even if you are completely satisfied with your existing Part D policy, the open season is an important time for you. You should review your plan coverage each year. A plan that previously fit your needs might not be your best choice now. 

Everyone currently enrolled in Medicare can purchase a Part D plan to help with prescription drug costs. Unlike Medicare Part A (Hospital) or Part B (Medical), Part D (Prescription Drug Coverage) is purchased through private insurers. You shop for the plan that best suits your personal needs. Joining a Medicare prescription drug plan is voluntary, and participants pay an additional monthly premium for the coverage. 

Although Social Security representatives cannot assist people in choosing a Medicare Part D plan, the agency does administer the Extra Help portion of Medicare Part D. 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 part of monthly premiums, annual deductibles, and prescription co-payments. The Extra Help is estimated to be worth about $4,000 per year. Many people qualify for these big savings and do not even know it. 

There is no specific open season to apply for Medicare Part D Extra Help.  Applications are accepted all during the year.

To figure out whether you are eligible for the Extra Help, Social Security asks about your income and the value of any savings, investments, and real estate (other than the home you live in). To qualify, you must be receiving Medicare and have: 

Income limited to $16,755 for an individual or $22,695 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

                —Live in Alaska or Hawaii

Resources for Extra Help are limited to $13,070 for an individual or $26,120 for a married couple living together. Resources include such things as bank accounts, stocks, and bonds. Not all resources count. For example, personal possessions, your house (if living in it), your car and some life insurance do not count as resources.

You can complete an easy-to-use online application for Extra Help at Click on Medicare on the top right side of the page. Then click on “Get Extra Help with Medicare Prescription Drug Plan Costs.”

Note:  Do not apply for Extra Help if you have Medicare and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Medicare and Medicaid.  You automatically will get the Extra Help.

Applying for the Medicare Extra Help does not enroll you in a Medicare prescription drug plan.

To apply by phone or have an application mailed to you, call the Social Security national toll-free number,1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778), and ask for the Application for Extra Help with Medicare Prescription Drug Plan Costs (form SSA-1020). You can also contact your nearest Social Security office.