Continue Assistance to Low-income Seniors
August 08, 2005
"House Bill 106 will extend and strengthen SeniorCare," said Murkowski. "It will continue to provide a cash benefit to the neediest of Alaska's seniors; and will dovetail with the federal changes to Medicare in January 2006 so low-income seniors will have help with the federal prescription drug plan."
The governor's SeniorCare initiative enacted in 2004 provided an array of services for low-income seniors until full federal Medicare drug coverage became available Jan. 1, 2006. Murkowski proposed HB 106 this year to ensure that low-income seniors would continue to receive needed assistance.
"The Medicare prescription drug plan will require beneficiaries to pay premium and deductible expenses out of pocket. SeniorCare will now help cover those costs for low-income seniors," said Joel Gilbertson, commissioner of Health and Social Services. "The result is a combination of state and federal benefits that provide better prescription drug coverage for Alaska seniors."
HB 106 continues the SeniorCare cash benefit through June 2007 for seniors with annual incomes below 135 percent of the 2005 federal poverty level. Seniors with incomes below $16,133 for individuals or $21,641 for couples will be eligible to receive $120 monthly cash assistance. These low-income seniors can qualify with liquid assets of up to $6,000 for an individual and $9,000 for a couple. The Medicare prescription drug program will cover premiums and deductibles for these seniors.
When the Medicare prescription drug benefit begins in January 2006, HB 106 changes the SeniorCare drug benefit to cover premiums and deductibles for Medicare Part D, or comparable insurance, for Alaska seniors with annual incomes between 135 and 175 percent of the 2005 federal poverty level. This subsidy would be available for seniors with incomes below $20,913 for individuals or $28,053 for couples. These low-income seniors can qualify with liquid assets of up to $50,000 for an individual and $100,000 for a couple.
"Over one-fourth of Alaska seniors, an estimated 11,000 out of 41,000, are estimated to be eligible in 2006 for SeniorCare under the new proposal," said Gilbertson. An estimated 7,000 seniors will qualify for the cash subsidy and 4,000 seniors will qualify for the prescription drug subsidy.
Since its implementation in April 2004, SeniorCare has offered eligible Alaska seniors (currently up to 135 percent of the poverty level) an option to receive $120 per month cash assistance up to $1,440 annually, or a $1,600 annual prescription drug subsidy. Seniors between 135 percent and 150 percent of the poverty level receive a prescription drug subsidy of $1,000 a year.
As of March 2005, 6,831 seniors were receiving the SeniorCare cash benefit, and 58 were receiving the drug benefit. The new SeniorCare applications will be available by late October. At that time, seniors currently receiving SeniorCare will be sent the new application, and an education effort will be implemented to inform potential applicants of the opportunity.
The toll-free telephone number for the SeniorCare Senior Information Office is 1-800-478-6065 (Anchorage 907-269-3680).
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