Millions of low-income seniors missing out on Medicare drug savings

More than two million people on Medicare could be getting their prescription drugs nearly for free, but don’t. That’s because they have not signed up for Extra Help, an important Medicare benefit that subsidizes drug costs for low-income senior citizens.

Extra Help can pay nearly all of the prescription drug costs a senior incurs in a Part D drug plan. It is provided automatically to seniors receiving Medicaid or Supplemental Security Income benefits. In some states, Extra Help also is automatic for people receiving benefits through the Medicare Savings Program, which helps subsidize Medicare Part A (hospitalization) and Part B (outpatient) premiums.

But among seniors who do not automatically qualify, less than half are enrolled. With Medicare’s annual fall enrollment season in full swing – and running through December 7 – it is a good time to remind seniors that they may be eligible. The benefit is substantial – annual savings can easily total $800 on premiums and deductibles, and can be much higher for seniors with high drug spending.

My Reuters column today explains the eligibility rules and how to apply. You may also want to check out free resources at your State Health Insurance Assistance Program, the Medicare Rights Center and the Social Security Administration.

My overview of Medicare Part D enrollment is here.