CHICAGO - Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today announced that older adults and the disabled can now apply and file the 2007 Illinois Cares Rx application over the Internet. The Governor is encouraging seniors to use the online application because it is the fastest way to get approved for state prescription drug assistance. Illinois Cares Rx provides wrap-around prescription drug coverage to fill in the gaps created by Medicare Part D. Seniors with questions about Illinois Cares Rx can call Governor Blagojevich’s Senior HelpLine at 1-800-252-8966 or visit www.illinoisbenefits.org
“The federal drug prescription program doesn’t protect all of our seniors – in fact, it leaves significant gaps that forces them to pay more for their prescriptions than they should,” said Governor Blagojevich. “But here in Illinois, we have the Illinois Cares Rx program that helps our seniors get the benefits that they are entitled to. And now, our seniors can receive these benefits faster by applying online.”
Gov. Blagojevich and the Illinois Department on Aging (IDoA) made the applications available online to make it easier and quicker to apply for benefits and to accommodate the increasing number of older persons accessing the World Wide Web. Several recent studies show that seniors are the fastest growing population of Internet users. Last year the number of Internet applications more than doubled when nearly 159,000 people took advantage of the Internet to file their Illinois Cares Rx applications and Circuit Breaker claims, compared to 75,288 filed online in all of 2005.
Before logging on to the Internet, IDoA Director Charles Johnson suggests having the following information available in order to make the process smoother: Social Security number(s), amount of property taxes paid in 2006, amount of rent paid in 2006, and a copy of 2006 federal tax returns.
“I encourage seniors who have access to the Internet to file for Illinois Cares Rx online at www.illinoisbenefits.org. If you don’t own a computer, I recommend reaching out to family members who do own computers and use theirs; visiting your local Area Agency on Aging or senior center; contacting a SHIP volunteer in your community; or calling the Illinois Department on Aging’s Senior HelpLine at 1-800-252-8966,” said Director Charles Johnson.
IDoA has sent booklets to those seniors and the disabled who submitted Illinois Cares Rx applications in the mail last year. Seniors and the disabled who filed for Illinois Cares Rx via the Internet should have received yellow postcards in the mail as a reminder to sign-up online.
Illinois Cares Rx provides a safety net for seniors and the disabled when their out-of-pocket costs for prescription drugs go up under the federal program. In 2007, the standard federal Medicare Part D prescription drug program will pay 75 percent of prescription drug costs up to $2,400 after a $265 deductible with an average $24 per month premium. Beneficiaries are responsible for all of their costs between $2,400 and $5,451.25, with the plan paying 95 percent of costs beyond that top threshold. The gap where a beneficiary has to pay all the drug costs between $2,400 and $5,451.25 is commonly referred to as the “donut hole.” People with Medicare applying for Illinois Cares Rx must also apply for Medicare’s Extra Help for drug coverage through the Social Security Administration (SSA). Apply for Extra Help by calling the SSA toll-free at 1-800-772-1213 or at www.ssa.gov
The Medicare Part D stand-alone prescription drug plans currently coordinating with Illinois Cares Rx are the AARP MedicareRx Plan, UnitedHealth Rx Basic, and WellCare Signature. The Medicare Advantage companies currently coordinating with Illinois Cares Rx are Group Health Plan, Health Alliance, HealthSpring, OSF Health Plans, SecureHorizons by United Healthcare and WellCare HMO. The stand-alone prescription drug plans are available statewide. Medicare Advantage prescription drug plans may be available only in certain areas.
Individuals eligible for the Illinois Cares Rx program may also be eligible for additional benefits from the State’s Circuit Breaker program. The Circuit Breaker program provides a property tax relief grant for individuals who pay property tax on their residence or rent or nursing home charges on a residence that is subject to property tax. In addition, the program provides an annual $54.00 discount on the license plate fee for one vehicle.
Those eligible for Illinois Cares Rx fall into one of the following groups whether you have Medicare or not:
1. Illinois Cares Rx Plus
Who can enroll? If you are single with an annual income of no more than $20,420; or
a couple with an annual income of no more than $27,380; and a citizen or qualified non-citizen.
What’s covered? All classes of medically necessary prescription drugs are covered.
2. Illinois Cares Rx Basic
Who can enroll? Seniors or the disabled with income less than $21,218 for a single person or $28,480 for a couple.
What’s covered? Prescription drugs for the treatment of Alzheimer's disease, arthritis, cancer, diabetes, glaucoma, cardiovascular disease, lung disease and smoking-related illnesses, osteoporosis, Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, and HIV/AIDS (if you have Medicare).
In June 2005 Gov. Blagojevich signed the “No Senior or Person with Disability Left Behind” law, which created the Illinois Cares Rx program, the nation’s most comprehensive response to fill in the gaps created by the federal prescription drug program. Illinois Cares Rx took effect January 1, 2006, with the start of the new Medicare prescription coverage and has provided extra assistance to nearly 245,000 Illinois Cares Rx members and other Medicare beneficiaries.
For those who don’t have a computer at home, seniors can visit a local senior center, public library, community center, Area Agency on Aging or Senior Health Assistance Program (SHAP) site to access the web based application. For more information or assistance, please call the Illinois Department on Aging’s Senior HelpLine at 1-800-252-8966 (888-206-1327 TTY) or visit www.illinoisbenefits.org