Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Maryland low income seniors to get drug subsidies

About 7,500 low- and moderate-income seniors in Maryland would be eligible for a subsidy for their prescription drugs under a  plan announced yesterday by Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) and health-care leaders.  A deal reached with CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, the region's largest nonprofit health insurer, would help senior citizens close a gap in Medicare drug coverage known as the doughnut hole. The Medicare benefit, passed by Congress in 2003, covers annual costs up to $2,510, but seniors then have to pay all of their drug costs until their total spending out of pocket hits $4,000. Coverage kicks back in after that.  The gap, designed to hold down costs, has proved unpopular. Health advocates say seniors are left with bills for vital drugs they cannot pay. Many are forced to go off their medication, endangering their health, critics say.  The subsidy offered under the agreement announced yesterday would cover seniors with incomes from Social Security benefits or retirement plans up to 300 percent of the federal poverty level -- about $30,000 for a single person. CareFirst has agreed to pay the annual $7 million cost of the program.  The average benefit would amount to $1,000.

Source:  Washington Post (16 February 2008)
Full story: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/02/15/AR2008021503600.html


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