Press Release             

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Deane Beebe
Public Affairs Director
Medicare Rights Center
212-204-6219
E-mail

January 22, 2008

Governor Spitzer Applauded for Proposing to Eliminate the Asset Test for Medicare Programs for New Yorkers with Low-Incomes

State Could Save Millions on Prescription Drugs if Senate and Assembly Follow Governor’s Lead

New York, NY – Governor Eliot Spitzer’s budget released today proposes removing the asset test for Medicare Savings Programs which would help more low-income older and disabled New Yorkers get help to pay their Medicare costs and automatically qualify for “Extra Help,” the federal subsidy that helps pay for the Medicare drug benefit.

Governor Spitzer’s proposal to eliminate the Medicare Savings Programs’ asset test will also save New York State millions of dollars a year on spending for EPIC, the state’s pharmaceutical assistance program for residents 65+, if the New York State Senate and Assembly approve it.

“Governor Spitzer has seized a golden opportunity to bring more federal dollars into New York, generating state savings on prescription drugs while increasing savings and benefits for low-income New Yorkers with Medicare,” said Robert M. Hayes, president of the Medicare Rights Center, a national consumer service organization which has been calling on the Governor and state legislators to eliminate the Medicare Savings Programs’ asset test.

By eliminating the asset test ($4,000/individual and $6,000/couple) for all three Medicare Savings Programs, more low-income New Yorkers will be eligible for these programs which pay Medicare premiums, deductibles and coinsurance, and automatically trigger enrollment in “Extra Help,” the federal subsidy that pays for prescription drugs under Medicare Part D.

Medicare Savings Programs, federal programs administered by the state, target low-income people with Medicare (income criteria ranges from $871 – $1,169/individual and $1,161 - 1,560/couple). Medicaid statute gives the state broad flexibility to set income and asset criteria for Medicare Savings Programs.

Two of the three Medicare Savings Programs, QMB and SLMB, are funded by both the state and federal government, and QI-1 is fully federally funded. There is no asset test for QI-1.

For people with both EPIC and “Extra Help,” the federal government pays most of the prescription drug costs. EPIC estimates that it will save $1,430 for every member who receives Full Extra Help in the next fiscal year.

More information on how New York State will save on prescription drugs by eliminating the asset test for the Medicare Savings Program is available in “Expanding Eligibility for Medicare Savings Programs: The Case for New York State, ”a recent report by the Medicare Rights Center and StateWide Senior Action Council, Inc. at http://www.medicarerights.org/EPIC_MSP.pdf.

Medicare Rights Center (MRC) is the largest independent source of health care information and assistance in the United States for people with Medicare. Founded in 1989, MRC helps older adults and people with disabilities get good, affordable health care.