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Medicare recipients should prepare to save on medicines

October 20, 2007|By KATRINA EVERSOLE

Before you know it, another Open Enrollment season for Medicare Part D prescription drug plans will begin. Starting Nov. 15 and running through Dec. 31, you can look at the new offering of drug plans in Maryland and make a decision - to stick with your current plan or switch to a new plan for 2008.

The Washington County Commission on Aging (Senior Health Insurance Program - SHIP) is scheduling dates at different locations throughout the county so that you can receive one-to-one computer assistance in making a wise choice for your prescription drug coverage.

Are you currently having trouble paying for prescription drugs? If you are and you have Medicare, there is extra help available and you might be eligible. And, if you think you won't qualify for it, think again.

One woman with Medicare was struggling to pay for her prescriptions, even with a drug plan and her $800 Social Security benefit.

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She talked to a counselor at the Washington County Commission on Aging's Senior Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP). Once she heard that the value of her house, as long as she lived in it, would not be used when determining her qualification for extra help, she applied and qualified. She was very grateful for the extra help.

This extra help - available by applying and qualifying through Social Security - can pay for part of your drug costs. For example, it can help with monthly premiums, annual deductibles, and prescription co-payments.

The extra help could be worth more than $3,300 per year. Many people with a limited income and resources qualify for these big savings and they don't even know it. So, be a smart consumer, and don't walk away from something you may qualify for.

You must apply to find out if you qualify for the extra help.You can do so at any time; you need not wait until annual open enrollment. You may call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213, or go to the local Social Security office, 1258 Maryland Ave. in Hagerstown and ask for assistance in filling out the form. Or you may apply online at www.socialsecurity.gov.

To qualify for extra help in 2007, your annual gross income should be no more than $15,315 for an individual or $20,535 for a married couple. Your resources (such as bank accounts, stocks and bonds) can't be more than $11,710 for an individual or $23,410 for a married couple. Remember, your house or car do not count toward resources.

If you have been approved for extra help and already are receiving benefits, you will receive an application annually from Social Security asking for updated information. Please look for this form in the mail. If in doubt, just fill it out.

This month, please look for a schedule of 10 different enrollment events in the county. For more information, you may call the Washington County Commission on Aging at 301-790-0275.

Katrina Eversole is a health insurance advocate and a senior advocacy and resource manager with the Washington County Commission on Aging.

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