Open season change is here for Medicare Part D plans

Medicare beneficiaries who are considering changes to their Medicare Part D plan should mark their calendars for Oct. 15. The “open season” will run from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7. This is a change from 2010 open season, when it was Nov. 15 to Dec. 31. The Medicare Part D prescription drug program is available to all Medicare beneficiaries to help with the costs of medications. Joining a Medicare prescription drug plan is voluntary, and participants pay an additional monthly premium for the coverage.

While all Medicare beneficiaries can participate in the prescription drug program, some people with limited income and resources also are eligible for “Extra Help” to pay for monthly premiums, annual deductibles, and prescription co-payments. The Extra Help is worth about $4,000 a year.

To figure out whether you are eligible for the extra help, Social Security needs to know personal income and the value of any savings, investments, and real estate (other than the home you live in).To qualify, you must be receiving Medicare and have:

• Income not over $16,335 for an individual or $22,065 for a married couple living together. Even if a person’s annual income is higher, there may still be help available with monthly premiums, annual deductibles, and prescription co-payments. Some examples where income may be higher include if a person or spouse:

-Support other family members who live with them;
-Have earnings from work; or
-Live in Alaska or Hawaii

• Resources not over $12,640 for an individual or $25,260 for a married couple living together. Resources include such things as bank accounts, stocks, and bonds. A house or car isn’t counted as resources.

Anyone interested can complete an easy-to-use online application for Extra Help at  Go to the Medicare tab on the top of the page. Then go to “Apply For Extra Help With Medicare Prescription Plan Costs.” To apply for the Extra Help by phone or have an application mailed, call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) and ask for the Application for Extra Help with Medicare Prescription Drug Plan Costs (SSA-1020). More information about the Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Program is available at or 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227; TTY 1-877-486-2048). In Minnesota, the Senior Linkage Line phone number is 1-800-333-2433.


-Rhonda Whitenack and Jim Czechowicz are with the Social Security Public Affairs office in Minneapolis and St Paul.