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Press Releases

New Web Service Helps Medicare Beneficiaries with Limited Means Get More Health Care Assistance - Includes Assistance with Enrolling in Extra Help for the Medicare Drug Benefit and State Medicaid Benefits and Other Assistance Programs

Monday, July 11, 2005
For Immediate Release
Contact: AoA Press Office
202-357-3507

A new web-based service will help Medicare beneficiaries of limited income and resources gain access to the extra help available to them through the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003. The service, which will also help them enroll in other health care and prescription drug assistance programs, was developed by the Administration on Aging (AoA) with the assistance of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and the National Council on the Aging (NCOA).

“This new resource helps bring together many assistance programs available to seniors who need the most help– and that includes the comprehensive extra help with drug costs that will soon be available for up to one third of Medicare beneficiaries through the new Medicare drug benefit,” said Mark B. McClellan, M.D., Ph.D., administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. “Through this partnership, we have taken another important step forward in our goal of providing better healthcare and more help to America’s seniors.”

The new service is a special version of BenefitsCheckUpRx updated for the extra help with Medicare drug coverage. It is available at http://www.BenefitsCheckUp.org/rx. BenefitsCheckUpRx will help older adults and the advocates who work with them take advantage of the Medicare low-income subsidy, the comprehensive extra help that covers 95 percent of drug costs on average for people with Medicare who have limited means.  Applications are available now and altogether, about one in three Medicare beneficiaries are eligible for the extra help.  The new service screens beneficiaries for eligibility and then provides a quick link to applying online for the extra help through the Social Security Administration’s Website. At the same time, it helps seniors and those who work with them apply for other needs-based government programs including the Medicare Savings Programs and other federal, state and private programs that can save seniors money.

“AoA, CMS and NCOA share the same vision,” said Josefina Carbonell, assistant secretary for Aging at the Department of Health and Human Services, in remarks during the national meeting of the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging today. “We see a national network of community-based organizations using BenefitsCheckUpRx to help people with limited incomes enroll in the new Medicare Prescription Drug coverage and to ultimately enroll in other federal benefits programs.”

“Through this unprecedented partnership, we expect to be able to reach and enroll many more seniors in both the extra help available from Medicare and with other needed benefits,” said James Firman, Ed.D., NCOA president and CEO. “For NCOA and for BenefitsCheckUp, this is major milestone. Everyone with Medicare who may be eligible for the extra help with drug coverage should enroll as soon as possible, and this new tool will help make that happen.”

Using BenefitsCheckUpRx, people with Medicare can get help learning about and applying for the Medicare low-income subsidy if they are eligible, as well as learn about how to enroll in various programs, including state pharmacy assistance programs, private company patient assistance programs, veterans and TRICARE benefits, Medicaid, Medicare Savings Programs (QMB, SLMB, QI), Supplemental Security Income, and the Medicare-approved drug discount cards can be obtained through December 2005. The tool is confidential: no one is required to enter their name, address, phone number, or Social Security number until they enroll.

Next year, Medicare beneficiaries who receive full Medicaid benefits or who are enrolled in a Medicare Savings Program (MSP) will automatically receive the extra help with their prescription drug costs. That extra help provides comprehensive drug coverage with no premiums, no deductibles, very low copays and no gaps in coverage.  States have the flexibility in deciding what rules to use when determining eligibility for their Medicare Savings Program beneficiaries, which means that these requirements can vary considerably from state to state. To help clarify the differences among states' eligibility criteria, CMS has information showing how those criteria differ from state to state and how beneficiaries can use that information to determine their eligibility for extra help at www.cms.hhs.gov/medicarereform/states/whatsnew.asp  In addition, the new BenefitsCheckUpRx incorporates state-specific income and asset eligibility requirements into its on-line screening tool.

The NCOA has also created a special organizational version that will provide training and ongoing customer support for Area Agencies on Aging, State Health Insurance Assistance Programs, State Units on Aging, and other local agencies that serve seniors and persons with disabilities.