Medicare Drug Benefit Includes Asset Limits To Qualify for Additional Financial Assistance
The Sacramento Bee on Monday examined the eligibility requirements for additional financial assistance under the Medicare drug benefit, which will provide prescription drug coverage to beneficiaries beginning Jan. 1, 2006 (Weaver Teichert, Sacramento Bee, 8/22).
Medicare beneficiaries whose annual incomes do not exceed 150% of the federal poverty level will be eligible for additional assistance if they have assets below $10,000 for an individual and $20,000 for a couple (California Healthline, 5/31). The value of a home, car and home furnishings are not included in the total, according to the Bee.
Some senior advocates say that the asset limits will keep many low-income beneficiaries from qualifying for the additional assistance and that the cost of verifying beneficiaries' assets might cost as much as providing additional financial assistance to all beneficiaries whose incomes are low enough to qualify.
CMS spokesperson Jeff Flick said that the eligibility guidelines for the assistance program are broader than those for other programs, adding, "We don't think it's going to be that many, but it will impact some" (Sacramento Bee, 8/22).
The decision on whether to enroll in a Medicare prescription drug plan "will not be an easy one" for beneficiaries in part because "Congress passed an incredibly complicated program," according to a Bee editorial. The editorial states that seniors should contact members of Congress to call for changes to the drug benefit, adding, "All of us in the younger generations sure would love to see this get fixed before we're eligible for Medicare" (Sacramento Bee, 8/22).
Additional information on the Medicare drug benefit is available online.