Extra Help For Medicare Part D Costs


 Last week I mentioned that the annual Medicare Part D (Prescription Drug Coverage) season has begun and continues to December 7, 2013.

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) parts of Medicare, you purchase Part D (Prescription Drug) coverage through private insurers by shopping for the plan that best suits your personal needs. Enrolling in a Medicare prescription drug plan is voluntary, and participants pay an additional monthly premium for the coverage.

Even though 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 the Extra Help low-income subsidy to help pay for monthly premiums, annual deductibles, and prescription co-payments.  

Do not apply for the Part D Extra Help if you have Medicare and receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits or if you have Medicare and receive Medicaid through your state social services. In these situations, you are automatically eligible for the Extra Help.

More about the Part D Extra Help:

Q: Can I apply for Extra Help only during the Part D open season?

A: No. If on Medicare, you can apply for the Extra Help anytime during the year.

Q: What is the income level for Extra Help?

A: In 2013, annual income is limited to $17,235 for an individual or $23,265 for a married couple living together. Even if your annual income is higher, you still may be able to get some help because not all income counts.

Q: What are resources?

A: To qualify for Extra Help in 2013, resources are limited to $13,300 for an individual or $26,580 for a married couple living together. Resources include the value of the things you own such as real estate, bank accounts, investments and cash. Not all items of value count as a resource. For example, your primary home, some vehicles, life insurance and burial funds do not count.

Q: How do I get an Extra Help application?

A: The best way to apply for the Extra Help is with the convenient online application at www.socialsecurity.gov/i1020. You can also call the Social Security national toll-free number, 1-800-772-1213 or TTY 1-800-325-0778. Before applying, learn what information you might need by going here and then clicking on the “Find Out if You Qualify” button at the bottom of the page. 

Keep in mind that completing a Part D Extra Help application does not enroll you in a Medicare prescription drug plan. To enroll in a plan, you should compare available plans and purchase one directly with a private agent. 

Social Security representatives cannot help you select a plan. See my October 25, 2013, post for information about selecting a Medicare Part D (Prescription Drug) plan.