Leavitt Discusses Low-Income Assistance Under Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit
The federal government is mailing applications for financial assistance with the new Medicare prescription drug benefit to millions of potentially eligible beneficiaries this month, HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt said Wednesday, the Los Angeles Times reports. An estimated 14 million Medicare beneficiaries are expected to be eligible for aid on premiums, deductibles and copayments under the new benefit. An estimated six million people who are dually eligible for Medicare and Medicaid will be enrolled in the new benefit automatically.
However, federal officials and patient advocates are concerned that the remaining seven million to eight million beneficiaries with annual incomes too high to qualify for Medicaid but low enough to be eligible for financial assistance under the drug benefit might not apply, according to the Times. Concerns include that beneficiaries will think their incomes are too high, that they will not want to fill out the six-page application and that they will think the benefit is too complicated.
David Lipschutz, a lawyer with California Health Advocates, said many beneficiaries will need help filling out the forms and some might be put off by all of the options. To help beneficiaries apply for financial assistance under the new drug benefit, the federal government is "mounting an aggressive effort to find and reach those eligible,"
Leavitt said, adding, "Every eligible low-income person will be better off by enrolling." HHS and the Social Security Administration are working with about 100 national organizations -- including AARP, the American Medical Association and the National Council on Aging -- to help beneficiaries apply for assistance. "The application takes a little effort, but it is well worth it," CMS Administrator Mark McClellan said (Alonso-Zaldivar, Los Angeles Times, 6/2).