Gray Power: Coverage aids limited incomes

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 27, 2005

A part of Medicare drug coverage gives more assistance to people with limited incomes. If you qualify, you will receive full coverage for the year and pay little for your drugs.

If you receive Medicare or SSI, you&8217;ll pay no premium or deductible for Medicare drug coverage.

Your copays for each prescription will be $1 to $2 for generic drugs, $3 to $5 for brand-named drugs and nothing for catastrophic coverage. Many people in nursing homes will pay nothing for drugs.

If your 2005 income is no higher than $12,919 (or $17,320 for a married couple living together) and your assets are no more than $7,500 ($12,000 for a couple), you&8217;ll pay no premium or deductible.

Your copays will be $2 for generic drugs, $5 for brand-name drugs and nothing for catastrophic coverage.

If your 2005 income is no higher than $14,355 ($19,245 for a couple) and your assets are no more than $11,500 ($23,000) for a couple), you&8217;ll pay a monthly premium of up to $35 depending, an annual deductible of $50, 15 percent of the cost of each prescription, and $2 to $5 for each prescription at the catastrophic level of coverage.

If you are in the first group, you qualify automatically.

Otherwise, you can apply by contacting the Social Security Administration at (800) 772-1213, online at or in person at the Social Security Administration office.

These sources can tell you if you qualify under these conditions.

In defining income, it includes Social Security. wages, dividends, rental property, workers&8217; compensation and education grants.

It does not include cash or credit acquired through a reverse mortgage.

Assets include bank accounts and the value of investments, life insurance policies and extra real estate.

Assets do not include your home, vehicle, burial plots or personal possessions, or $1,500 in savings intended for funeral expenses.

It&8217;s still worth applying if you are close to these limits. Social Security does not prevent you spending down assets or giving away some savings to reduce below the limit.

Only what you have when you apply counts. Caution: Spending down may affect your eligibility for other programs (such as Medicaid), should you need them within a few years.

If you got drugs through Medicaid in 2005, you&8217;ll get them through a Medicare plan from Jan. 1, 2006. Medicaid will continue to supply drugs that a Medicare drug plan doesn&8217;t cover.

Dr. Marvin Copes serves as a volunteer for AARP. He can be reached at