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Medicare Extra Help available for low income seniors

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­­­­ Q: What is Medicare Extra Help?

A: Part of Medicare Part D (prescription drug coverage), Extra Help is a program to help people with limited income and resources pay for part of their prescription drug coverage premiums, annual deductibles, and prescription co-payments. The Social Security Administration administers the Extra Help, even though agency representatives cannot assist people in choosing a Medicare Part D plan.

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People can apply at any time for the Part D Extra Help. There is no specific open season. To figure out if you are eligible, Social Security asks about your income and any savings, investments, and real estate (other than the home you live in).

To qualify in 2012, you must be receiving Medicare and be within the following income and resource levels. Income limited to $16,755 for an individual or $22,695 for a married couple living together. Even if your annual income is somewhat higher, you still may be able to qualify for some Extra Help if you or your spouse support other family members who live with you, have earnings from work, or live in Alaska or Hawaii.

Resources are limited to $13,070 for an individual or $26,120 for a married couple living together. Resources include items such 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.

Information and an Extra Help application are at www.socialsecurity.gov.

Click on Medicare at the top of the page, and then go to Get Extra Help with Medicare Prescription Drug Plan Costs (www.socialsecurity.gov/prescriptionhelp/index.htm).

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

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

To lean more or apply, you can also call the Social Security national toll-free number, 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778), or your local office.

Based in Grand Forks, Howard I. Kossover is the Social Security Public Affairs Specialist for North Dakota and western Minnesota. Send general interest questions to him at howard.kossover@ssa.gov. Read his online articles at socialsecurityinfo.areavoices.com.

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