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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 16, 2007

Governor Blagojevich announces newly expanded income limits for Illinois Cares Rx
Reminder to file applications over the Internet to get benefits faster

To find out more about Illinois Cares Rx, call the Senior HelpLine at 1-800-252-8966 or visit www.illinoisbenefits.org

CHICAGO - Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today announced that the income guidelines for the Illinois Cares Rx prescription drug program have increased so that even more seniors and the disabled can be eligible for the state prescription drug assistance program. The Governor also reminded seniors to file the 2007 Illinois Cares Rx application online because it is the fastest way to get approved for the program. Illinois Cares Rx provides wrap-around prescription drug coverage to fill in the gaps created by Medicare Part D. Illinois Cares Rx also offers drug coverage for people who don’t have Medicare. Seniors with questions about Illinois Cares Rx can call the Illinois Department on Aging’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 force them to pay more for their prescriptions than they should,” said Gov. Blagojevich. “But here in Illinois, we have the Illinois Cares Rx program that helps our seniors get the benefits they are entitled to. Now, with the newly expanded income guidelines, even more of our seniors can take advantage of these best-in-the-nation prescription drug benefits. I encourage all those, who didn’t believe that they were eligible for the program because their income was over the limit, to go online or visit one of their local senior centers and apply.”

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. This year, a significant number of seniors received Social Security Cost-Of-Living-Adjustments (COLA) putting them over the income limit for the program. Based on this fact, the new income eligibility levels for Illinois Cares Rx are as follows:

• Total income must be less than $22,793 for a single person
• Total income must be less than $30,594 for a couple
• Total income must be less than $38,393 for a family of three

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 65 years of age or older and have an annual income of no more than $21,936; or a couple with an annual income of no more than $29,412; and a citizen or qualified non-citizen.
What’s covered? Almost all prescription drugs are covered.

2. Illinois Cares Rx Basic
Who can enroll? Seniors or persons with disabilities with income less than $22,793 for a single person or $30,594 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).

“If you haven’t applied for the Illinois Cares Rx drug coverage program this year because your income was over the limit, I encourage you to try again,” said Illinois Department on Aging Director Charles D. Johnson. “Those seniors, who have access to the Internet, file for Illinois Cares Rx online at www.illinoisbenefits.org so that you can get your benefits faster. And if you don’t own a computer, I recommend reaching out to family members who do own computers and use theirs, visit your local Area Agency on Aging or senior center, contact a SHIP volunteer in your community, or if you have any questions, you can always call the Illinois Department on Aging’s Senior HelpLine at 1-800-252-8966.”

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 online.

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. However, the new income guidelines for Illinois Cares Rx impact the drug coverage benefits only. The income limits for the Circuit Breaker property tax grant and license plate discount have not changed.

Gov. Blagojevich and the Illinois Department on Aging (IDoA) made the Illinois Cares Rx 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, the Blagojevich Administration 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.

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.

To apply for Illinois Cares Rx or to find out more information about the new income guidelines, please call the Illinois Department on Aging’s Senior HelpLine at 1-800-252-8966 (888-206-1327 TTY) or visit www.illinoisbenefits.org.



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