Seniors and Medicare Advice-For the First time, Beneficiaries Asked to Detail Their Income and AssetsSomervell County Salon-Glen Rose, Rainbow, Nemo, Glass....Texas


Seniors and Medicare Advice-For the First time, Beneficiaries Asked to Detail Their Income and Assets

28 July 2005 at 8:27:52 AM

Senior centers throughout the region are bracing for an onslaught of telephone calls from confused Medicare recipients who are being asked to disclose the most intimate details of their financial lives to Uncle Sam.

In anticipation of the new Medicare prescription drug program, which will be rolled out in January, the Social Security Administration is asking millions of recipients of the federal health insurance program to detail their income and assets.

It is the first time in the 40-year-history of Medicare, a health plan that serves elderly and disabled Americans, that beneficiaries are being asked to furnish such information to determine whether they qualify for subsidies.

''I know their intention with this asset test is to reduce benefits for the rich, but what they're doing is hurting people who are living just above the federal poverty line," said Howard C. McGowan of Malden, a Massachusetts Senior Action Council board member. ''Needy people will be disqualified simply because they did what they were supposed to and saved for retirement."...

Although all Medicare recipients will become eligible for some level of drug coverage come January, those who have low incomes stand to gain the most. Roughly one-third of Medicare recipients nationwide are expected to qualify for subsidies, based on a sliding scale, to help pay for deductibles, premiums, and co-payments. The poorest recipients will pay no monthly premiums or annual deductibles, and they will spend just $2 to $5 for prescriptions.

Under the drug benefit program, passed by Congress in 2003, individuals with annual incomes below $14,355 and married couples who make less than $19,245 will be eligible for the subsidies if they also pass an asset test.

In other words, to qualify for the subsidy, beneficiaries must also have very little tucked away in stocks, bonds, bank accounts, and life insurance policies. The asset limit is $10,000 for individuals and $20,000 for couples, not including their primary home, vehicle, or burial plot. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that 1.8 million poor Americans will lose out on the subsidies because they saved for their golden years.

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