Drug benefit forms could prompt suspicion among seniors

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An estimated 15 million low-income seniors soon will receive applications for the new Medicare prescription drug benefit, but many of those application recipients will be skeptical of the six-page document, advocacy groups say.

Financial questions in the application could make some ill at ease, such as those that ask recipients to calculate the face value of insurance policies and determine how much financial help they get from friends and relatives to pay for living essentials. Another line in the application that could be off putting tells seniors that they could go to prison if they give false information.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is sending the application to those who qualify for additional financial assistance with their medication costs. The benefit, which will begin this January, will provide assistance for those with annual incomes at or less than 150% of the federal poverty level.

Medicare will automatically enroll about half of the beneficiaries eligible for the additional assistance in the benefit because they participate in other government programs. Many nursing home residents will fit into this category. But as many as 7.5 million low-income Medicare beneficiaries will have to complete the application that requires detailed financial information.