Despite heavy outreach efforts about two-million people nationwide are still missing out on a Medicare program that helps people with limited income to pay for prescription drugs.
Even an ad campaign launched by Social Security featuring Chubby Checker promising a “new twist” to help with prescription drug costs, enrollment in Extra Help hasn’t improved much since its launch in 2006.
Extra Help is a low-income subsidy for people on the Part D prescription plan. The plan helps Medicare recipients fill the “donut hole” or gap in coverage and can save individuals up to $4,000 a year.
Richard Weishaupt with Community Legal Services in Philadelphia works with low-income seniors. He said many find Medicare Part D confusing as it is and this extra wrinkle makes it worse. “They’re watching day time TV or they’re watching cable or they’re listening to the radio and it just doesn’t come through as being a program for them,” he said. “The fact that it’s Medicare prescription drug program just makes it that much harder for them to listen attentively.”
Seniors can apply for Extra Help throughout the year not just during Medicare Part D’s annual enrollment.
Vicki Gottlich of the Center for Medicare Advocacy said it’s a difficult group to reach. Many aren’t enrolled programs where the information is available. Gottlich also said it can take too much to prove eligibility.
“I think one of the best things that could help would be to eliminate requiring how much savings and resources they have,” Gottlich said. “If your going to have income below the eligibility criteria, your not going to have millions of dollars in resources.”
Qualifying couples can’t have more than $25,000 in assets. The plan helps pay for monthly premiums, deductibles, and co-payments.