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August 22, 2006 > Medicare prescription drug subsidy

Medicare prescription drug subsidy

by Cynthia Moore

There are still some 9,247 people in Alameda County who could be eligible for help paying for Medicare prescription drug coverage. Only, they haven't yet applied. The subsidy, worth an average of $3,700 a year for participants according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, pays for all or part of the monthly premiums and annual deductibles, fills in the coverage gap, and lowers the prescription co-payments.

People who qualify can join a Medicare drug plan immediately and pay very little out of pocket for their medications.

These Alameda County residents are part of an estimated 226,906 Medicare beneficiaries in California (and 3.3 million beneficiaries nationwide) who also potentially qualify for the subsidy but have yet to apply, according to rough estimates by the Department of Health and Human Services.

"Unfortunately, people who potentially qualify for programs like this often are challenging to reach. Only about a third of those who qualify for government assistance programs ever sign-up for them," says Joan Stevie, Chair, Access to Care and Treatment Alliance (ACT), a partner of the Medicare Rx Access Network of California. "Access to medications is critical to health, so there is a special urgency to reach as many people who qualify for this prescription-drug subsidy as possible and encourage them to apply."

To qualify, a person must be on Medicare and have an annual income below $14,700 and assets limited to $11,500 (not including the house or car) or $19,800 in income and $23,000 in assets for a couple. Those who qualify can immediately join a Medicare drug plan for coverage in 2006 with no penalty or waiting period. There is no cost or obligation to apply, so anyone who thinks they may be eligible should fill out an application as soon as possible.

Alameda County residents can apply at their local Social Security office, over the phone by calling Social Security at 1-800-772-1213, or online at
Assistance is also available by calling the Health Insurance Counseling and Advocacy Program (HICAP) at (800) 434-0222 or 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227); TTY users should call 1-877-486-2048.
The Medicare Rx Access Network of California provides information and assistance with outreach and education for the new Medicare prescription drug benefit. The network includes 74 local organizations dedicated to working together to create awareness and understanding of the new prescription drug benefit. By sharing information with each other about member organizations' independent efforts, collaborating on activities, and identifying ways to work together, the network aims to eliminate duplication of efforts and maximize the effectiveness of outreach efforts. The network does not engage in legislative activities or take positions on pending legislative or administrative policies related to the Part D benefit and its implementation.

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