Madicare plan may lower costs

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Starting Jan. 1, 2006, Medicare beneficiaries can receive help paying for their medications.

Medicare beneficiaries must feel out an application--by phone, mail or via the Internet--to be eligible for the program Doug Smith, a spokesman with the Denver Regional Social Security office said.

The application process is based on income, he said.

Smith said, seniors with low income--$14,355 for an individual and $19,245 for a married couple--can get help paying for monthly payments, deductibles and co-payments under this prescription drug program and could possibly pay as little as $2 for their medication.

People with higher income are also eligible for the program, Smith said.

Seniors who are enrolled in Medicare and Medicade, he said, automatically qualify for the help.

Smith said more than 18 million applications were sent out to potentially eligible Medicare beneficiaries.

The applications will all be sent out by August 15.

One of the big parts of the prescription drug plan is the new Internet application, which people now can use instead of mailing or calling to apply for financial help with Medicare prescription drug costs.

"The Internet will provide another way for seniors to get help with their Medicare prescription drug costs," Smith said.

While the Internet application is designed to make the application process easier for senior citizens, not everyone believes it will.

Keith Anthonson, the executive director of the Moffat County Housing Authority, said he thinks the on-line approach may be difficult for some senior citizens.

"My gut feeling is (senior citizens) will stick to what they're doing," he said. "I would be somewhat surprised if (the Internet) was used. If it is, the number will be on the minority side."

Learning how to use the Internet will be the biggest problem, Sunset Meadows resident Helen Dobbin said.

"At my age, I know what I am doing," she said. "If I do something new I might mess it up."

Nevertheless, the Internet application, Smith said, was designed with the caregivers in mind.

"The Internet is designed more for the families that help senior citizens with their business," he said.

Anyone who wants to apply can return the application they received in the mail. If they did not receive an application, or do not want to wait, they can call 1-800-772-1213. The application is also available at www.socialsecurity.gov.

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