Help available for Medicare applicants

Published 12:09 am Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Alabama Tombigbee Regional Commission Area Agency on Aging is offering a program Tuesday that could prevent senior citizens from overpaying for medical costs.

The State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) will provide information and help to the elderly from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the YMCA of Selma-Dallas County.

According to attorney Clayton Davis, several senior citizens are unaware that they are eligible for medical coverage and prescription drugs for free or reduced costs.

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“I’m both hoping and afraid we’re going to be flooded with people Tuesday,” said Davis, who offers legal assistance for seniors.

The ATRC serves Choctaw, Clarke, Conecuh, Dallas, Marengo, Monroe, Perry, Sumter, Washington and Wilcox counties. Volunteers on Tuesday will compare Medicare’s plans and get applicants the most cost efficient ones possible.

Re-enrollment for Medicare coverage is critical, Davis said, because its programs will dramatically change their medical and prescription drug coverage plans.

“The premiums have exploded, and they have dropped hundreds of drugs from some of the plans,” Davis said. “The plan they have this year may have been perfect for them, and if they don’t change it by January they’ll go to the drug store and half the medicine is not on the plan. There’s a whole lot of people who don’t know they don’t have to pay for any of this or not have to pay as much.”

Open enrollment for Medicare ends Dec. 31. Everyone older than 60 is eligible for assistance in the program. People with single-person household incomes less than $1,320 per month or less than $1,770 for two people may be eligible for significant reductions in the cost of Medicare coverage. Income limits increase by $450 for each additional person who is dependent on the Medicare beneficiary.

Applicants could also enjoy a lower deductible, and there is a greater chance there will be no gap in their drug coverage.

To receive assistance Tuesday, people should bring their prescription containers, Social Security card, Medicare and any other health or prescription cards, date of birth and income information.

“A lot of people are not aware of programs available to them that they, the taxpayers, are paying for,” said program volunteer Wanda Williams. “Senior citizens should not be paying a $30 co-pay to go to doctors.”