For seniors on a budget, buying expensive prescription drugs can be a challenge.
Karen Leonhardt, director of Lincoln County Senior Services, has heard more than once, â€œWe have to choose between food, shelter and prescription drugs.â€
Relief is now coming to seniors who have been forced to make that choice.
Social Security and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services are now working together to help with prescription drug costs.
The new Medicare Prescription Drug program, which begins in January, offers qualified citizens annual deductible premiums and co-payments, which average to $2,100 in help.
â€œIt is the best thing that has happened to seniors, I think, ever,â€ said Paul Barnes, regional commissioner for social security.
Barnes visited the Lincoln Senior Center Tuesday from his headquarters in Atlanta. After giving a summary of the plan, he and his colleagues answered questions and helped seniors fill out application forms.
Some received bad news.
â€œI understand Iâ€™ve got too much (money), and I donâ€™t qualify,â€ said Andrew Lemmond, who attended.
Others received good news.
â€œIt sounds like it will help,â€ said Sue Ogle, who came in order to help her mother. â€œI have not found it to be complicated.â€
To find out if they were eligible, seniors needed to know the value of their savings, investments, real estate and income.
Those with limited income (below $14,355 for an individual and $19,245 for a married couple living together) qualified.
Even if an individualâ€™s annual income is higher, however, he or she might still qualify to get some help with monthly premiums, annual deductibles and prescription co-payments.
For example, people who support other family members who live with them or have earnings from work may receive the benefits.
Those with limited resources (below $10,000 for an individual or $20,000 for a married couple living together) also qualify for extra help. The resource limit can be slightly higher (an additional $1,500 per person) if the individual is using some money for burial expenses.
For more information visit www.socialsecurity.gov , www.medicare.gov or call (800) 772-1213.
by Sarah Grano