Part D offers special rates for low-income Americans

Built-in assistance will make Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage more affordable for low-income Americans. How much help they can expect depends on the value of their assets, their eligibility for both Medicaid and Medicare, and whether their annual income is below either 150 percent or 135 percent of federal poverty levels.

Different low-income categories qualify individuals for various cost breaks. For example, those whose income falls below 135 percent of the poverty level will pay no monthly premium or annual deductible and will have no gap in their coverage. Their only costs: $2.25 for generic drugs or $5.60 for brand-name drugs.

For 2008, the federal poverty level is considered $10,400 for individuals and $14,000 for couples. Thus, to be below 135 percent of the poverty level, your yearly income this year would have to be less than $14,040 (individual) or $18,900 (couple). To be below 150 percent of the poverty level, your yearly income this year would have to be less than $15,600 (individual) or $21,000 (couple).

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