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Health Care Gets More Affordable for More Missourians on Fixed Incomes

November 10, 2009

Health care just got more affordable for more Missourians on fixed incomes.

About 43,000 older and disabled Missourians are eligible for financial help with prescription drugs. Participants must enroll in Medicare Part D, the national prescription drug insurance program, between Nov. 15 and Dec. 31. Most, if not all, of their premiums and deductibles will be paid starting in January. Currently, the majority of enrollees pay those costs.

Missouri’s ten Area Agencies on Aging will notify seniors about the financial help and offer counseling on how to apply. The agencies were awarded nearly $231,000 by the Department of Health and Senior Services to help them contact eligible residents. A separate group known as Community Leaders Assisting the Insured of Missouri (CLAIM), will also spread the word through a $200,000 grant from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Margaret Donnelly, director of the Department of Health and Senior Services, said the programs are reaching out to seniors and people with disabilities because confusion swirls around Medicare Part D and Medicare Advantage plans.

“It is critical to inform older and disabled adults about the benefits available, especially in Missouri’s rural communities,” Donnelly said. “These grants will enable the Area Agencies on Aging and other groups to explain the process and get help for more eligible Missourians.”

The new rules are the result of the 2008 Medicare Improvement for Patients and Providers Act. The law increased coverage of preventive and mental health care. It also expanded the income and assets a person can have and still qualify for Medicare Part D’s extra financial help.

Individuals with cash-value insurance policies, for example, are no longer ineligible for extra help. And a person’s home Ð no matter what its value – is not counted as a resource. This means that an elderly married couple with a $250,000 home are eligible for the extra help as long as the couple’s other resources are not more than $21,855 and their annual income does not exceed $21,000. Resources include bank accounts, cash, CDs and IRAs.

F. Marie Barton, a grant manager for the Department of Health and Senior Services, said those who receive extra help will see an increase in their disposable income. When most of their medication costs are covered, most people can afford better living conditions and better nutrition. Those things result in fewer hospitalizations and emergency room visits, she said.

The counties with the largest percentage of older and disabled Missourians eligible for Medicare Part D’s extra help are Moniteau, Macon, Lawrence, Texas and Grundy counties.

The urban counties of Jackson, St. Louis and Greene had the most residents eligible to participate, followed closely by Jasper and Jefferson counties.

Kit Wagar
Office of Public Information

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