Press Release             

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Paul Precht
Director of Policy and Communications
202-637-0961

Akiko Takano
Deputy Director of Communications
212-204-6214

January 8, 2010

New Law Eases Restrictions on Assets, Income for “Extra Help” Program
-- Changes Expand Access to Affordable Prescription Drugs --

New York, NY—Effective January 1, 2010, several changes to the law make it easier for older people and people with disabilities to qualify for Extra Help, the federal program that helps people with Medicare pay for their prescription drugs.

Under the Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act of 2008 (MIPPA), people who apply for Extra Help will no longer be required to count life insurance policies as an asset, and money and services they receive from family and friends to help cover their living expenses will not count as income. The law will make an additional 1 million people with Medicare eligible for Extra Help.

“These changes will greatly simplify the application process and broaden access to the Extra Help program,” said Joe Baker, president of the Medicare Rights Center. “All too often, older adults and people with disabilities have to split pills or skip doses to afford their prescription drugs. These changes will ensure that more Americans have access to the drugs they need.”

A third change to the program links the Extra Help application to the application process for Medicare Savings Programs (MSP), which help people pay Medicare premiums, coinsurance and deductibles. Effective January 1, the Social Security Administration will forward verified income and asset information from Extra Help applications to state agencies, which will use the data to initiate applications for MSP.

This change will help coordinate enrollment in the two programs, and leverage the outreach efforts for Extra Help by the Social Security Administration to improve enrollment in MSP. Currently only about one-third of people with Medicare who are eligible for MSP have enrolled in the program.

The Medicare Rights Center offers free resources for people who want to learn more about enrolling in Extra Help and MSP. Visit Medicare Interactive, a free, web-based counseling tool, at www.medicareinteractive.org. To speak with a counselor, call the toll-free hotline at 1-800-333-4114. Counselors are available Monday through Friday, 9:00 am to 5:00 pm (Eastern Time).

 

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Medicare Rights Center is a national, nonprofit consumer service organization that works to ensure access to affordable health care for older adults and people with disabilities through counseling and advocacy, educational programs, and public policy initiatives.

 

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