While many older Hoosiers often need assistance with their medical costs, the director of Hoosier Rx, Grace Chandler, recently explained that less than half of those eligilble for the discount drug program are signed up to pay less at the pharmacy.
"It helps seniors who couldn't otherwise afford to buy medications," Chandler said. "Unfortunately, many people don't know about it." She added that 13,145 people are presently enrolled, but they have a capacity to serve 30,000 in the plan.
The state's senior prescription drug plan, Hoosier Rx, was created by state legislators and Gov. Frank O'Bannon in 2000 with funds from the tobacco settlement, which totaled $20 million in the first year. Those enrolled receive 50 percent off the costs of prescription medications at participating pharmacies when using their Hoosier Rx Drug Cards. It covers most prescription drugs, as well as insulin for individuals 65 and older meeting income requirements. A single person must make less than $997 per month and couples can't earn more than $1,344 monthly to meet federal poverty guidelines.
Thirty other states offer similar programs to their older residents.
Pharmacist Jessica Fowler, of Lynn's Pharmacy, 22 W. National Ave., said the state-funded senior prescription program seems to be catching on with patrons at the downtown business.
Customers can pick up applications at Lynn's as well as most other pharmacies throughout the state. Fowler says she and the other pharmacists she works with often tip their customers off to the money-saving plan.
"It typically helps the lower-income seniors who otherwise might fall throught the cracks of the health care system," she said, explaining some insurance companies don't cover prescription costs.
Chandler said the program was announced by O'Bannon in October 2000 to specifically help those struggling with prescription costs because programs such as Medicare didn't offer an outpatient prescription drug benefit plan.
"Two-and-a-half years later, Medicare still doesn't have an outpatient prescription program," she said, explaining that the federal program will cover those types of costs while seniors are hospitalized.
Future funding for the program isn't an issue yet, Chandler said, but admits that the shaky economy might some day affect the grant-based plan.
"I don't believe legislators want to stop funding Hoosier Rx, but there's a possibility they might eventually limit the budget for it" Chandler said.
She encourages all seniors within the income guidelines to fill out the simple applications at their pharmacies or to visit the Web site at www.IN.gov/HoosierRx, where they can print out a copy of the form to mail. The application process takes between 4 to 6 weeks to complete. For more information, call 1-866-267-4679.
How much of a benefit will you receive?
Benefit amounts are determined by the senior's net monthly income and family size.
- If you receive a monthly income of $997 or less for a single person, or $1,344 or less for a married couple, you could receive 50 percent off of your prescription costs up to $500 in a year.
- If you receive a monthly income of $886 or less for a single person, or $1,194 or less for a married couple, you could receive 50 percent off of your prescription costs, up to $750 in a year.
- If you receive monthly income of $739 or less for a single person, or $995 or less for a married couple, you could receive 50 percent off of your prescription costs, up to $1,000 in a year.