Article Courtesy of the Social Security Administration

Medicare's new prescription drug program, which goes into effect in January 2006, is not just for older Americans. If you or someone you know is a Social Security disability beneficiary who is also entitled to Medicare, the new prescription drug coverage program is available to you, too.

Open enrollment for the new plan runs from Nov. 15, 2005 to May 15, 2006. But Social Security is now taking applications from Medicare beneficiaries who may be eligible for extra help to pay for monthly premiums, annual deductibles and prescription co-payments under the new prescription drug program. The extra help can save qualified beneficiaries an average of $2,100 per year.

To qualify for the extra help, a person or married couple living together must have limited income and resources. For an individual, your total annual income must be below $14,355 and your resources valued below $10,000. The limits for a married couple living together are higher: $19,245 in combined annual income and $20,000 in resources. These resources can be slightly higher -- an additional $1,500 per person -- if you will be using some of the money for burial expenses.

If you receive disability benefits from Social Security and are working, some of your earnings might not count toward those income and resource limits. In fact, less than half of your wages would be counted. If you have expenses for things that you need in order to keep working, they could be deducted from your earnings, too.

Social Security is now mailing letters to nearly 19 million Medicare beneficiaries who we have identified as potentially eligible for this extra financial help. The letter includes an application and a return-addressed, postage-paid envelope. If you get this application, please read it, complete it and return it to Social Security.

If you did not get a letter and application in the mail, but think you might qualify for the extra help, go to our web site at www.socialsecurity.gov.

Some beneficiaries will automatically qualify for the extra financial help. Anyone who has both Medicare and Medicaid, or Medicare and Supplemental Security Income, or anyone whose state pays his or her Medicare premiums, will not have to complete an eligibility application.

Also, it is important that all beneficiaries understand that even if they qualify for the extra help, they still need to enroll in a Medicare- approved prescription drug plan to obtain both coverage and the extra help.

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