This month, according to an article on the website of the Reuters news service, more than 2 million Americans are receiving letters promising to help reduce Medicare costs. Many will dismiss these letters as a suspicious-sounding fraud. But the program and the savings are real, and they’re good news for those low-income seniors who qualify.
Click on this link to read the Reuters article. It could save you a lot of money.
The program is called Extra Help, and it’s offered every year to low-income seniors by the Social Security Administration. Extra Help often covers up to 75 percent of prescription drug costs for qualifying seniors, and depending on the state where you live there may be other subsidies available as well. The frustrating fact for Social Security administrators, unfortunately, is that many seniors who could be saving money don’t apply because they don’t know the program exists. The Kaiser Family Foundation reports that about 30 percent of Medicare Part D prescription drug enrollees are in the Extra Help program, but about 1.2 million others who might qualify have not signed up and are enrolled in more expensive Part D plans.
Part of the reason, experts suggest, is that seniors get so much fraudulent mail that they might dismiss these Social Security Extra Help letters as bogus. As the Reuters article puts it, “A letter arrives in the mail with this opening line: ‘We are writing to let you know how you can get help paying your Medicare costs.’ Your fraud detector probably goes on high alert.” However, Reuters emphasizes, “This letter is no scam.”
In order to boost awareness and enrollment, this year the Social Security officials are trying something new. They’re letting community-based groups across the country know how many Extra Help letters were mailed out in each ZIP code. This may help Senior Centers and other groups better target potential enrollees unaware of the program.
Besides subsidizing costs of prescription drugs, Extra Help can also help cover costs once an enrollee enters what is commonly called the “donut hole.” That’s the gap in coverage that forces enrollees to pay out of pocket costs after a coverage cap is exceeded. These uncovered costs can be significant, especially for seniors on low income.
Reuters points out that simply receiving the Extra Help letter in your mailbox doesn’t mean you automatically qualify. There are very stringent qualifying thresholds on income and assets. The Reuters article explains these thresholds and also points out that seniors with resources above these low limits may still qualify for partial subsidy. You’ll find a toll free number and a link to a government website to help you determine whether you qualify and, if you do, to help you apply.
There’s one final point in the Reuters article that we found intriguing. It states that the Extra Help program for Medicare subsidy is just one of many such programs aimed at low income seniors, programs which too often go under-utilized. “Extra Help,” says Reuters, “is just the tip of the iceberg.” A recent analysis estimated that some 4 million low-income seniors could increase their annual budget by nearly 30 percent simply by taking advantage of existing benefit programs to reduce costs of health care, food, utility payments and property taxes. You may be one of those people – or you may know someone in that predicament. We suggest you start by reading the Reuters article about the Extra Help program. It might help you find other ways to save.
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(originally reported at www.reuters.com)