Medicare and Medicines program offers “Extra Help” and HOPE to customers struggling with Medicare
Oklahoma Human Services (OKDHS) serves more than 1.25 million children and families each year through a myriad of services designed to replace poverty and insecurity with resources, and trauma and despair with HOPE. For many of the individuals we serve, budgets are tight and options for meeting their or their family’s needs seem small. Preventative or necessary medical care or medications may be put off in favor of placing food on the table or keeping the lights on. However, the programs OKDHS Community Living, Aging and Protective Services (CAP) administers through the Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act (MIPPA) of 2008 makes Medicare affordable for people who meet the income and resource requirements.
According to the Social Security Administration, there are over 180,000 low-income Oklahoma Medicare beneficiaries who may be eligible to gain access to programs that make their health care and prescriptions costs more affordable. Staff of OKDHS’ MIPPA programs, also known as Medicare and Medicines, educate the community about Medicare Preventive Services, which provides exams and screenings such as the “Welcome to Medicare” preventive visit, yearly wellness visits, flu shots, cardiovascular screenings and more.
“Medicare is a complex system that is not easily understood,” said MaryAnn Briscoe, statewide MIPPA Coordinator. “Our job is not to only help low-income Medicare recipients access benefits, but also to explain the program in words they can understand.”
One of the programs available through Medicare and Medicines is “Extra Help,” which can assist in lowering Medicare Part D prescription drug costs including premiums, deductibles and the costs of drugs on the plan’s formulary. The other program is the “Medicare Savings Program” to help pay the Medicare part B premium. If eligible, beneficiaries receive assistance to pay their Medicare Parts A/B deductibles, co-pays and co-insurance.
“Several recipients that I have assisted in making application for Extra Help have expressed how this program has eased the burden of acquiring medication to sustain health and in some cases has been life-changing,” said Teresa Ryan, another MIPPA Coordinator.
Judy, an Extra Help program recipient from Hydro, says she is grateful to the staff of the Medicare and Medicine program for reducing her monthly prescription drug cost by more than $290, a significant savings for someone on a tight budget.
“An injury in 2007 resulted in me having to leave the workforce, and elements of the economy caused financial strain and high stress levels,” Judy said. “If you all hadn’t helped me, I don’t know what I would have done.”
But Judy and other MIPPA customers aren’t the only ones benefitting from these programs. Community pharmacists like Robert Frederick in Atoka remark how the programs help him fulfill his calling to serve others.
“Service to others is our highest calling and OKDHS has responded to that call,” says Frederick. “In addition to the services they have always provided, they have created services in response to the COVID-19 crisis. Medicare and family caregiver assistance are just a few of the programs that have certainly been beneficial. I’m confident these ‘Hope’ programs will benefit many Oklahomans. Thanks to Oklahoma leadership and caring people at OKDHS for providing hope in these uncertain times!”
“I love the way this program allows staff to work with community partners to outreach individuals in need of assistance with their Medicare and prescription drug expenses,” said Nadine Walter, Programs Administrator for the CAP Community Engagement and Coalitions Unit. “An eligible individual that meets the income and resource guidelines could save up to $4,500 a year. This financial assistance allows staff the opportunity to create pathways to HOPE for many vulnerable Oklahomans.”
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