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Let’s talk about Medicare

October is “Talk About Prescriptions Month” and marks the beginning of this year’s Medicare open enrollment period. It’s the perfect time to talk about Medicare prescriptions and the Extra Help available from Social Security.

Newly eligible Medicare beneficiaries and current beneficiaries who are considering changes to their Medicare Part D (prescription drug coverage) plan should act now. The Medicare open enrollment period runs from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7. The Medicare Part D prescription drug plan is available to all Medicare beneficiaries to help with the costs of medications. Joining a Medicare prescription drug plan is voluntary, and participants pay an additional monthly premium for the prescription drug coverage.

While all Medicare beneficiaries can participate in the Medicare Part D prescription drug plan, some people with limited income and resources may be eligible for Extra Help to pay for monthly premiums, annual deductibles, and prescription co-payments. The Extra Help is estimated to be worth about $4,000 per year. Many Medicare beneficiaries qualify for these big savings and don’t even know it.

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 you live in). To qualify, you must be receiving Medicare and have:

  • Income 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 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; and
  • Resources limited to $13,440 for an individual or $26,860 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 or get more information by visiting www.socialsecurity.gov/medicare. 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 Extra Help with Medicare Prescription Drug Plan Costs (SSA-1020).

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

While we’re on the subject of open seasons, the open enrollment period for qualified health plans under the Affordable Care Act is Nov. 15 to Feb. 15. Learn more about it at www.healthcare.gov.

This Medicare open enrollment season, while you search for the Medicare prescription drug plan that best meets your needs, see if you qualify for the Extra Help through Social Security. That’s a winning prescription worth talking about.

Kylle’ McKinney, Alabama Social Security Public Affairs Specialist, can be reached in Montgomery at 866-593-0914, ext. 26265, or at kylle.mckinney@ssa.gov.