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Howard Kossover: What is Medicare Extra Help?

Q: What is Medicare Extra Help?

A: Part of Medicare Part D (prescription drug coverage), Extra Help helps people with limited income and resources pay for part of their prescription drug coverage premiums, annual deductibles, and prescription co-payments.

Social Security administers the Extra Help program, even though agency representatives cannot help you choose a Medicare Part D plan.

If on Medicare, you can apply for the Extra Help low-income subsidy anytime during the year.

There is no specific open season.

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.

When applying, you are asked about your income and financial resources.

To qualify in 2013, you must be receiving Medicare and be within the following income and resource levels.

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 somewhat higher, you still may be able to qualify for some Extra Help if you or your spouse supports other family members who live with you, have earnings from work, or live in Alaska or Hawaii.

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.

Information and the online Part D Extra Help application are at

Click on the Benefits tab and go to the Extra Help section at

You can also call the Social Security national toll-free number, 1-800-772-1213 or TTY 1-800-325-0778.

Learn about Medicare Part D coverage at on the Medicare website.

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 Read his online articles at