Benefit Bulletin

Benefit Bulletin

What To Do When You Can’t Afford Your Drug Costs
By Chairman Art "Coop" Cooper

If your prescription drug costs are outgrowing your ability to pay for your medicine, look into Medicare’s “Extra Help” program.  The program helps pay for some, or most, of the costs of Medicare prescription drug coverage, depending on income.  In addition, there’s no doughnut hole coverage gap that leaves you footing the bill for a larger share of the co-insurance, there’s no late enrollment penalty, and you have the chance to switch plans at any time.  According to the 2018 Medicare & You Handbook, drug costs in 2018 for people who qualify will be no more than $3.35 for generics and $8.35 for brand-name drugs.

You may qualify if your yearly income and “resources” or savings are below the following limits in 2017:

  • Single — your annual income is less than $18,090 ($1,507.50 per month) and resources less than $13,820 per year.
  • Married living with spouse — annual income is less than $24,360 ($2,030) and resources less than $27,600 per year.

Even if your income will be slightly higher in 2018 you should apply, because the income and resource limits are adjusted annually and will likely be somewhat higher next year.  “Resources ” refer to money in checking and savings accounts, stocks, bonds, mutual funds and Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs).  Don’t rule out applying just because you own your own home.  Your home, car, household items, burial plot up to $1,500 for burial expenses per person, and life insurance policies ARE NOT counted as resources.

The process involves more than just an application.  If you qualify you would also need to select a drug plan.  You can apply for Extra Help anytime.  Visit to apply online.  Call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213.

To get answers to questions about Extra Help and to get assistance for choosing a drug plan, call your State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP).  You can call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227) for the number or check with your Area Agency on Aging.