Covering costs of drug plan

Q. This summer I received a letter from Social Security that says I might qualify for extra help to pay for the annual premiums, deductible and copayments related to the new Medicare prescription drug plan. What does this mean? -- Tom
A. The Social Security Administration is mailing letters to people on Medicare who may qualify for additional financial help when the Medicare drug benefit starts in January. This extra help -- targeted to people on Medicare with limited incomes and modest resources -- could provide significant savings to those who sign up for a new Medicare prescription drug plan.
Beginning in 2006, all people on Medicare will be able to receive coverage under new prescription drug plans, but most will have to pay a new monthly premium, a deductible and a copayment for each prescription.
To qualify
If you expect to sign up for a Medicare drug plan for 2006 and your annual income is less than about $14,400 (or $19,250 per couple) and you have less than $11,500 in assets ($23,000 per couple), not including your home or car, you can qualify for extra help. You may not have to pay the full premium or deductible and you will only pay a couple of dollars for each covered prescription. You can apply for this additional assistance through Social Security or through your state Medicaid (Medical Assistance) program.
One last reminder: Don't forget to enroll in a Medicare prescription drug plan -- in addition to applying for extra help provided to those with modest means. It would be a good idea to compare Medicare drug plans in your area and consider which plan is best for you. You can find out about the drug plans in your area starting in mid-October by visiting or calling (800) MEDICARE. Deciding how to choose the right plan will be a topic in future columns.
XThis column was prepared by the Kaiser Family Foundation, an independent, nonprofit private foundation based in Menlo Park, Calif., not affiliated with the Kaiser Permanente health plan. Send questions about the new Medicare drug benefit to Medicare Q & amp;A, The Kaiser Family Foundation, 1330 G St., N.W., Washington, DC 20005 or

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