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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 24, 2007

Gov. Blagojevich reminds Illinoisans to apply online for Illinois Cares Rx
Urges all seniors to sign up now to avoid interruption in wrap-around prescription drug coverage and lower costs; For more information on Illinois Cares Rx, call the Senior HelpLine at 1-800-252-8966 or visit www.illinoisbenefits.org

SPRINGFIELD – Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today urged all Illinois Cares Rx members to reapply for Illinois Cares Rx now in order to avoid a break in coverage, including seniors who have not yet reapplied because they thought their income was over the limit.  The Governor also reminded Illinois citizens who are newly eligible for Medicare Part D to go online and apply for Illinois Cares Rx – the state’s prescription drug assistance program that provides wrap-around prescription drug coverage to fill in the gaps created by Medicare Part D.  Seniors and persons with disabilities are encouraged to apply online because it is the fastest way to get approved for the program.  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.
 
“Illinois Cares Rx was created to make sure that no senior or disabled person would be left behind by the federal Medicare Part D program.  I want to encourage seniors to go online and apply to get these best-in-the-nation prescription drug benefits,” said Gov. Blagojevich.  “It is also critical for all other previously eligible seniors to reapply as soon as possible to make sure they stay covered through next year.”
 
For seniors and persons with disabilities who currently have coverage, but need to reapply, they can fill out an application via the Internet, to avoid a break in Illinois Cares Rx coverage and to ensure coverage continues on January 1, 2008.  The deadline for applications is December 31, 2007 but the Illinois Department on Aging (IDoA) is encouraging everybody to apply now in order to avoid a break in coverage if they wait until the end of the calendar year.
 
Gov. Blagojevich and 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.
 
“If you haven’t applied for the Illinois Cares Rx drug coverage program this year because your income was over the limit, or you didn’t think you were eligible, 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, or contact a SHIP volunteer in your community.  And remember, if you have any questions, you can always call the Illinois Department on Aging’s Senior HelpLine at 1-800-252-8966.”
 
Illinois Cares Rx provides a safety net for seniors and persons with disabilities when their out-of-pocket costs for prescription drugs go up under the federal program.  Illinois Cares Rx also offers drug coverage for people who don’t have Medicare.  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 married 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 married 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 aged 16 and over with income less than $22,793 for a single person or $30,594 for a married 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 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.”  The Illinois Cares Rx program assists members with Medicare by filling in this gap in coverage.  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. 
 
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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