The program began in January 1999, as the Senior Drug Program. It pays prescription drug costs for those 65 years of age and older who live slightly above the federal poverty level.
Under the old program, seniors with assets over $4,000 for individuals and $6,000 for couples were not eligible for the program.
The asset limit was increased to $10,000 for individuals and $18,000 for married couples or a family of two. Dorine Fuchs, Paynesville, works with the Stearns County Social Services and attended training sessions to learn more about the program.
She is available at the Paynesville Area Center the first Monday of each month from 10 a.m. to 12 noon to help answer questions about the program and to fill out application forms.
"A person has to jump through a lot of hoops and red tape but it's worth it," Fuchs said. Fuchs has one client who saves anywhere from $100 to $150 every three months. The savings vary depending on the cost of the drugs, she added.
"The cost of prescription drugs is overwhelming for people on a fixed income," Fuchs said. The ones that need it often don't apply. The money is there, it doesn't cost anything to apply, she added.
"I'm sure there are more people in the area who are eligible but they have the attitude that "we'll get along," Fuchs said.
Fuchs explained that if a person isn't eligible for assistance under the prescription drug program, they can apply to other programs. One program is the Novartis Physician Assistant program. She has a directory listing the drug companies who help. There is also the GLD Pharmaceuticals Company.
The Legislature requires pharma-ceutical manufacturers to publicize prescription drug patient assistance programs that many manufacturers offer for low income patients.
"There is no guarantee that you will obtain assistance, but it doesn't cost you anything to check," Fuchs said.
Fuchs praised Bert Stanley, pharmacist at Corner Drug for helping in obtaining the names of various drug companies.
Stanley said they handle the program the same as any other insurance program where the customer pays the co-pay and the insurance company picks up the remainder.
Must be 65 or older. (In July 2002, the program will expand to include disabled people who are eligible for Medicare)
Minnesota resident for six months
Income at or below 120 percent of federal poverty guidelines ($855 a month for individuals and $1,145 for couples)
Liquid assets of $10,000 or less for individuals; $18,000 for married couples
Must not be living in a nursing home
Must have no current or prior Medicare supplement or other prescription drug coverage within four months of applying
Not enrolled in Medicare
Must be eligible for one of the medical assistance programs which help Medicare beneficiaries pay their Medicare premiums or related medical costs. Among the programs are Qualified Medicare Beneficiary and Service Limited Medicare Beneficiary programs. See related chart of government programs
Assets are things you own, such as cash, savings, and nonhomestead property. If you live alone, you may own up to $10,000 in assets. A married couple or family may have $18,000, explained Fuchs. This also includes money in the bank, she added.
Some assets that do not count are:
Mobile home used as your primary
home Prepaid burial fund up to $1,500
Burial space items
One motor vehicle, under certain conditions
If you live with your spouse, your spouse's income and assets also count, even if your spouse does not want to apply for assistance through the prescription drug program.
Prescription drug benefits begin the month after you are found eligible. Once accepted into the program, an individual pays $35 monthly and the prescription drug program pays the rest. Low income residents can also receive help in paying medicare premiums and other related medical costs.
How to apply
Those interested in applying for the prescription drug program can call Senior Linkage Line at 1-800-333-2433 or 320-253-9349.
Area residents can also apply at their respective county human service agency.
Fuchs is also available to help in filling out application forms. She is available the first Monday of each month. Make an appointment at the Paynesville Area Center by calling 320-243-4799.
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