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Assistance programs that help seniors with health care costs

Published 9:27am Friday, August 23, 2013

Medication assistance

For help with your Medicare prescription drug plan costs, there is another completely separate program called Extra Help. To get it, you’ll need to apply through your local Social Security office.

Depending on exactly how low your income is, the program will pay all or part of your Part D prescription drug plan premium and deductible, a hefty chunk of your copay, and totally eliminate the doughnut hole coverage gap. In 2013, individuals with an income below $1,436 a month, and assets under $13,300 can qualify for Extra Help.

If you’re eligible to be in a Medicare Savings Program, you will automatically qualify for Extra Help. But because the requirements are slightly different, even if you don’t qualify for a Medicare Savings Program for Part B, you might be able to get Extra Help for Part D. For more information or to apply, call Social Security at 800-772-1213 or visit socialsecurity.gov/prescriptionhelp.

Get help

To help you find out if you’re eligible for these programs, use the National Council on Aging web-based tool at benefitscheckup.org.

You’ll need to fill out an online questionnaire that asks things like your date of birth, zip code, expenses, income, assets and a few other things. Once completed you’ll get a report detailing which programs you may qualify for, along with downloadable application forms and, in the case of Extra Help, allow you to complete your entire application online. The program even knows the specific MSP eligibility rules in your state.

Or, if you don’t have Internet access, contact your State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP), who provides free one-on-one Medicare counseling in person or over the phone.

To locate your local SHIP, call the eldercare locator at 800-677-1116.

Send your senior questions to Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit SavvySenior.org. Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy Senior” book.

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