Pennsylvania has made it easier for thousands of seniors to qualify for help with their prescription drug costs. House Bill 777 was unanimously passed by both houses of the Pennsylvania legislature and signed into law on February 7 as Act 12 of 2014. It takes effect immediately.
PACE and PACENET are Pennsylvania’s income limited prescription assistance programs for older adults, offering low-cost prescription drugs to low income residents who are over age 65. Over 300,000 Pennsylvanians receive prescription drug benefits through the programs.
To be eligible for PACE or PACENET, Pennsylvania residents must be at least 65, cannot have prescription coverage through Medicaid, and must meet income requirements. Eligibility is determined based on the applicant’s previous calendar year income.
For PACE, a single person cannot have countable income of more than $14,500. For a married couple, the combined income limit is $17,700. For PACENET, the income limit is between $14,500-$23,500 for a single person and $17,700-$31,500 for couples.
The new law allows seniors who would lose prior eligibility due to Social Security cost-of-living adjustments (COLA) to stay on the PACE and PACENET programs. This continues a policy that expired on December 31, 2013. The law extends that Social Security COLA moratorium until December 31, 2015
Significantly, Act 12 also permanently removes Medicare Part B premiums from countable income. This disregard should allow thousands of additional seniors to qualify for PACE and PACENET.
As noted by the legislation’s primary sponsor, Representative Seth Grove, seniors never really receive the “income” for the Medicare Part B benefit since it is deducted directly from their Social Security checks. In 2014 most people pay $104.90 each month in Part B premiums or over $1,250 per year. The Pennsylvania Department of Aging estimates that this change will provide nearly 8,200 additional seniors with prescription drug coverage.
For more information on Pennsylvania’s pharmaceutical assistance programs for the elderly, call 1-800-225-7223. Local assistance is available through your Area Agency on Aging and from local pharmacies.