KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

One Million Seniors Get More Generous Prescription Drug Benefits

As of Jan. 1, more than 1 million low-income seniors "are newly eligible for more generous prescription drug benefits under the 'extra help' program" in Medicare, The Associated Press reports. 

Benefiting from this change are applicants who have life insurance policies or who regularly receive money from relatives to help pay for household expenses. They were previously disqualified because of too many assets or too much income. "Income limits are $16,245 a year for singles and $21,855 for married couples living together. Assets such as stocks, bonds and bank accounts must be limited to $12,510 for singles and $25,010 for married couples. The value of homes and automobiles are excluded."

About 30 percent of seniors enrolled in the prescription program, Medicare Part D, are also enrolled in the "extra help" - also known as the low-income subsidy - program. "For many, the extra help program eliminates premiums and annual deductibles and charges copays as low as $1.10 for generic drugs and $3.30 for brand names" (Ohlemacher, 1/8).

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