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November 14, 2010

Social Security: Open season for Medicare program

TERRE HAUTE — When you think of November, you may imagine such things as turkey dinners, family gatherings, or the start of the holiday shopping season.

But newly entitled and current Medicare beneficiaries who are considering changes to their Medicare Part D Prescription Drug plan might think of November as the time for thinking about Medicare. That’s because the Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Program Open Season this year runs from Monday to Dec. 31.

Joining a Medicare prescription drug plan is voluntary, and participants pay an additional monthly premium for the coverage. Some people with limited resources and income are eligible for Extra Help to pay for monthly premiums, annual deductibles and prescription co-payments. To qualify for this Extra Help:

• You must reside in one of the 50 states or the District of Columbia;

• Your resources must be limited to $12,510 for an individual or $25,010 for a married couple living together. Resources include such things as bank accounts, stocks and bonds. We do not count your house and car as resources; and

• Your annual income must be limited to $16,245 for an individual or $21,855 for a married couple living together. Even if your annual income is higher, you still may be able to get some help. Some examples where your income may be higher are if you or your spouse:

• Support other family members who live with you;

• Have earnings from work; or

• Live in Alaska or Hawaii.

And, as our celebrity spokesman Chubby Checker will tell you, a new “twist” in the law makes it easier than ever to qualify. Social Security no longer counts as a resource any life insurance policy. We also no longer count as income the help you may receive when someone else provides you with food and shelter, or someone else pays your household bills for food, mortgage, rent, heating fuel or gas, electricity, water, and property taxes.

To apply for Extra Help, complete the Application for Help with Medicare Prescription Drug Plan Costs (SSA-1020) online at socialsecurity.gov/extrahelp. You also can call 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778). Social Security representatives can help you apply over the phone or mail an application to your home. Or, visit your local Social Security office.

To learn more about the Medicare prescription drug plan, visit www.medicare.gov or call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227; TTY 1-877-486-2048).

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