By Tony Parra
Senior citizens attended an informational seminar on Friday morning at the Portales Senior Citizens center to see if someone can help them with the increasing costs.
Buffie Saavedra, the program manager of the Aging and Long-term Service Department of New Mexico, traveled to Portales to answer seniors’ questions about the Medicare prescription drug card and the Qualified Medicare Beneficiary coverage program. She said she heard of one case from a senior citizen who earned $400 a month in income and needed one prescription drug that cost $250 a month to take.
Private companies offer discount cards that are approved by Medicare. The cards offer discounts on certain prescription drugs. Seniors can sign up for the discount card if they are enrolled in Medicare, according to a flyer passed out by Saavedra.
Participants can sign up for a Medicare card to receive special low-income assistance, including $600 in help with prescription drug costs. Saavedra said qualifying low income is when a senior makes $1,048 a month or when a senior couple earns $1,249 a month. She said it takes five months to process the applications, but interested seniors can still apply for 2004.
According to Saavedra, there is also another program seniors can qualify for. The QMB coverage program is a type of coverage which pays for all Medicare premiums. The qualifications for the program are that the income for one person is $776 a month and have less than $4,000 in countable resources (such as farm property, vehicles).
“Many seniors have to buy prescription drugs instead of food,” Saavedra said. “Or they only have enough to buy one week’s worth of prescription drugs and hope they have enough for the next week.”
For Portales senior Celia Dawson, it was beneficial for her to attend the seminar, because she learned of a program she was eligible for. Dawson said she spends approximately $65 a month for prescription drugs and her income qualifies her for the QMB coverage.
“I only get income from social security and I don’t own any property,” Dawson said. “So I qualify. It was beneficial for me to come to the seminar. She (Saavedra) was very good. I’m glad I came out.”
Portales senior Odis Newman said he spends approximately $120 a month on prescription drugs. He believes manufacturers should help foot the cost of prescription drugs, but doesn’t believe Congress members will help seniors.
“I don’t think they’re sympathetic to the costs,” Newman said. “They don’t have to worry about prescription drug costs because it’s all paid for them. They don’t have to worry about it at all in their lives. I wouldn’t worry about it either if it was free for me.”
Saavedra said if seniors want to change the way the system will work in the future, they have to let it be known to their representatives.
Saavedra also said seniors can receive free legal advice from state attorneys on whether the seniors qualify for the programs. Seniors who are interested in legal advice or in finding out if they qualify for MedBank or the prescription drug card can call 1-800-432-2080.