April 22nd, 2011 at 9:00 am
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Medicare is reaching out to caregivers – Part 3 of 4

by Carol Bursack

Many people have written to ask me about benefits eligibility for their elders. Most of these individuals are simply trying to ensure their elders are receiving all due benefits, but  some people have specific needs in mind. Generally, when asked, I’ll suggest that they visit the BenefitsCheckUp site.

BenefitsCheckUp

Created by the National Council on the Aging (NCOA), this site is free and easy to use. The site allows users to do the following:

  1. Find benefits programs
  2. Apply for Medicare’s Rx Extra Help
  3. Find application forms to help pay for health care and prescription drugs

Find benefits. In this section, users can access state, Federal and private benefits programs for utilities, health care, prescriptions, food assistance and more. BenefitsCheckUp offers an interactive questionnaire to guide users through process.

Extra Help. Extra Help is a program designed to provide fixed or limited income individuals on Medicare with assistance to cover the cost of Medicare prescription drugs. Basic eligibility requirements include the following income levels:

  • Single. $16,335
  • Married. $22,060

For those who qualify, the program has no deductible, removes the coverage gap and low or no premiums.

Applications. BenefitsCheckUp has access to over 600 fact sheets and applications for various assistance programs. These include patient assistance programs, prescription drugs, State-level Medicare Savings Programs and more. Most programs are designed to assist low income individuals ($22,000 if single, $30,000 if married).

Be sure to visit this site on a regular basis, as qualifications for benefits can change. Who knows? Maybe your elders are missing benefits available that could make their late years less stressful and more comfortable. A printable report of programs and enrollment information is available at benefitscheckup.org.

Other Medicare resources and benefits programs

While many of us wonder if anyone is listening if we have a question or complaint about Medicare, there are options. Along the bottom of the Ask Medicare page, you can find a number of different resources. One of those resources is a link to their ombudsman page. If you follow that link, you’ll be taken to a page where you can find answers to your questions, or learn how to file an inquiry, complaint, grievance, or appeal across different areas of Medicare.

Financial Help for Caregivers

Paying for care is, for most caregivers, a pressing issue. Learn more how to pay for your elders’ care by following the paying for care link on Ask Medicare. Among other options you can learn about the following:

  1. Medicare Savings Program (MSPs)
  2. Apply for Extra Help
  3. Pharmaceutical Assistance Programs
  4. National and Local Charitable Programs
  5. GovBenefits.gov
  6. Apply for Medicaid

Condition specific information

Additionally, there are numerous underused programs and resources for individuals with certain conditions, such as diabetes. One that comes to my mind, is the Diabetes Education program (DSMT). Other condition specific topics covered under Medicare include the following:

  1. Alzheimer’s disease
  2. Cancer
  3. Heart disease
  4. Kidney disease

You can follow the condition specific link on Ask Medicare for information on these topics.

Part I of this Ask Medicare series offered readers an overview of the newly updated site. Part II examined at some of the features on the Eldercare locator. In Part 4 of our Ask Medicare series we will discuss their take on obtaining legal help for elders, planning for long-term care and finding community support.

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