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90,000 FL seniors eligible for ‘extra help’

1/8/2010 © Health News Florida

In Florida, an estimated 90,000 low-income senior citizens can now get more generous prescription drug benefits through the "Extra Help" program in Medicare, according to the state Department of Elder Affairs.

About 30 percent of Medicare beneficiaries already qualified for Extra Help, which pays prescription drug plan premiums and annual deductibles, leaving patients only a low co-pay at the pharmacy. 

The program was expanded Jan. 1 to 1 million more beneficiaries across the country who were prevented from qualifying in the past because of assets such as life insurance policies or income such as gifts from relatives.

Florida is trying to get the word out to those eligible through the SHINE program (Serving Health Insurance Needs of Elders). The state's 400 SHINE volunteers help Medicare beneficiaries figure out which coverage is best for their needs and cut through red tape when they encounter problems.
Some of the SHINE volunteers have been assigned to "outreach," finding those who could qualify for the Extra Help expansion, said Elder Affairs spokeswoman Kassie Elekes. SHINE's toll-free phone number is 1-800-963-5337.

About 1 million of Florida's 3.3 million Medicare beneficiaries were estimated to be enrolled in Extra Help before this expansion. 

The Associated Press has more information on ways the government is trying to get the word out, including enlisting the help of Chubby Checker.