By Kirk Larson
For Northwest Asian Weekly
Based on 2008 Social Security data, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, on average, live three years longer than the majority of the population. It is during our later years of life in which saving money on medical expenses is the most critical. Social Security may be able to help.
Some Medicare beneficiaries are eligible for Extra Help, a prescription drug coverage progam that can save an average of about $4,000 per year on medical costs — monthly premiums, annual deductibles, and prescription co-payments.
A large percentage of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders rely on Social Security for their retirement income and it is only beneficial for them to apply for Extra Help.
In the general population of elderly Social Security recipients, 20 percent of married couples and 40 percent of unmarried people rely on Social Security benefits for 90 percent or more of their income. With elderly Social Security recipients who are Asian Americans or Pacific Islanders, we find that 29 percent of married couples and 60 percent of unmarried persons rely on Social Security for 90 percent or more of their income.
The good news is that beginning Jan. 1 of this year, changes in the law have made it easier for people to qualify for Extra Help with their Medicare prescription drug plan costs.
There are thousands of people here in the Northwest who could be saving money today if they would file for this program.
To qualify for Extra Help, a person must be on Medicare and have limited income and resources. Your resources must be limited to $12,510 for an individual or $25,010 for a married couple living together.
Your annual income must be limited to $16,245 for an individual or $21,855 for a married couple living together. Your income can be a little higher if you support other family members who live with you, have earnings from work, or live in Alaska or Hawaii.
If you live in King County, you can contact the Chinese Information and Service Center (CISC) at 206-624-5633. The CISC helps Chinese and other Asian immigrants throughout King County achieve success in their new community by providing information, referral, advocacy, social, and support services.
You can also go online to fill out an application at www.socialsecurity.gov. Information regarding this and other Social Security programs in 15 different languages is available at www.ssa.gov/multilanguage. To apply by phone or have an application mailed to you, call Social Security at-1-800-772-1213. You can also file your application at your nearest Social Security office. ♦
Kirk Larson is a social security public affairs specialist from the U.S. Social Security Administration.
Jocelyn Chui contributed to this report.