Few Low-Income Medicare Beneficiaries in California Enrolled for New Prescription Drug Discount Card Program Subsidy
Thousands of elderly California residents are not enrolled in the $600 annual subsidy that is part of the new Medicare prescription drug discount card program, largely because state agencies have been unable to inform beneficiaries about the program, the Knight Ridder/San Jose Mercury News reports.
The subsidy is available to low-income seniors who sign up for the Medicare drug discount card program, which runs until the full Medicare prescription drug benefit begins in 2006.
Officials say they want to reach about 105,000 Medicare beneficiaries statewide who are eligible for the subsidy, out of a total of 3.2 million seniors who could enroll in the drug card program. However, only a portion of eligible seniors have enrolled because they remain unaware of the subsidy.
In Santa Clara County, only 1,000 of the more than 30,000 low-income Medicare beneficiaries eligible for the subsidy have enrolled in the drug card program.
Lorraine Larson, director of marketing and communications for the Council on Aging Silicon Valley, said, "It's money out there that people are leaving on the table," adding, "Some of these people have no drug coverage at all, so this $600 subsidy is really good for them."
CASV is authorized to enroll Medicare beneficiaries and distribute federally approved drug discount cards. However, officials say that they have been unable to reach most of the eligible low-income beneficiaries in the area, in part because many do not have transportation to visit senior centers or health centers, where information on the program is available.
In addition, many seniors do not speak English or have computer access to learn about the program online, according to Larson.
CASV is planning to increase its outreach efforts by sending staff to places where the elderly congregate, including senior fairs, flea markets and senior centers. The council has received a $15,000 grant for such efforts. Council officials said that seniors and their caretakers also can call the agency and have a staff member help them enroll (Skipitares, San Jose Mercury News, 10/18).