There is no dispute that we are living in very difficult times. For seniors surviving, sometime barely, on fixed incomes, making touch choices is a daily occurrence. And now that heating season is upon us, money is even tighter.

Eastern Area Agency on Aging wants to help if possible. Medicare part D open enrollment ends Dec. 7, but for those who find some of the costs associated with Medicare part D challenging, Lee F. White, State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) coordinator, may have a way to save them some money.

“The Medicare Savings Plan, also known as the Buy-In, is a great benefit because it saves money for Medicare beneficiaries who qualify,” said White. “The MSPs give assistance to people with limited income. There is also no asset test, so whatever you have in the bank, be it an IRA, a CD, stocks and bonds — none of it counts, nor does your house or car. What does count, and all that is looked at, is your income.”

There are different levels of MSP and each one pays for the monthly part B premium.

One section of the MSP called Qualified Medicare Beneficiary also helps pay some medical costs associated with Medicare A and B for a qualified individual. They will also have no cost generic drugs and around $3.00 co-pay for brand name prescriptions as long as the drug is on the part D plan’s formulary.

As always, if you’re unsure if you qualify, call EAAA. We can help you through the process and you may be pleasantly surprised by the result.

“A person’s or a couple’s income, and only the income, determines what level of MSP they qualify for,” said White. “I don’t give out the actual figures for approval, as the Department of Health and Human Services determines eligibility and there are exceptions to the rules, but the ball park figure for an individual is $1,700 per month and a married couple is $2,400 per month.”

White wants to see all Medicare beneficiaries who fall in that range, even those who are above or below because there are may be other variables at work that determine eligibility.

“I never want anyone to rule themselves out of a program if they think that they even come close to those numbers,” she said. “You just never know what can happen.”

And speaking of hard choices that seniors make, no one wants to see seniors go hungry because they are sharing their food with their beloved furry companions. Picture an elderly woman sharing a can of tuna with her cat. This is not healthy for the woman nor the cat as each has specific required nutrients, however pet food can be expensive so this scenario happens because the pets are cherished family members..

In many instances the senior spends more time with the cat or dog than with anyone else and a deep bond is developed. They will do anything for the animal, even if it means going a bit hungry themselves.

So in light of the sacrifices seniors make for their pets, EAAA wishes to thank Gentiva Home Healthcare Services for a very successful food drive that they held for the Furry Friends Food Bank, a program of EAAA. FFFB is unique in that supplies supplemental pet food to low-income seniors and adults with disabilities to help them feed their companion animals. And our cupboards have been pretty bare lately so this pet food drive came at a great time.

The Gentiva drive brought in more than 2,000 pounds of pet food for our deserving clients and we very much appreciate this caring act from a very caring company.

Carol Higgins Taylor is director of communications at Eastern Area Agency on Aging. Email Higgins Taylor at For information on EAAA, call 941-2865, toll-free 800-432-7812, email or visit TTY 992-0150.