Medicare Discount Drug Card Information
and Outreach for People with disabilities

Far too often discussions about Medicare focus exclusively on Medicare beneficiaries who are 65 years old or older. It is important to remember that people with disabilities who have received Social Security disability benefits for 24 months are also eligible for Medicare. There is no distinction in the Medicare benefits for those who qualify for coverage because of a disability rather than age.  This is true for the new Medicare prescription drug programs.

Prescription Drug Discount Card Program

Like Medicare beneficiaries who are over 65, people with disabilities are eligible for the prescription drug discount cards to be available this spring and for the Part D prescription drug program to be implemented in 2006. The discount drug card is a voluntary and temporary program to lower prescription drug costs during 2004 and 2005, while preparations are made for the Medicare prescription drug benefit that begins January 1, 2006.  The discount drug card is part of the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement and Modernization Act of 2003, Public Law No. 108-173 (12/2003). To enroll in the new Medicare endorsed prescription drug discount card, an individual must be entitled to benefits or enrolled in Part A, or enrolled in Part B, and must not be receiving Medicaid outpatient prescription drug coverage at the time of enrolling.

There are  no income qualifications for the Medicare endorsed prescription drug  discount card.  However, low-income beneficiaries who do not have drug coverage through private insurance, TRICARE for Life, or the Federal Employee Health Benefits Plan (FEHBP) may be eligible for up to an annual $600 credit toward the cost of most prescription drugs.  The income limits for the $600 credit are $12,569 or less if single, or $16,862 or less, if married.

Outreach to Medicare Beneficiaries with Disabilities

People providing outreach and services for those with disabilities should follow and, if possible, get involved with the discount drug card outreach activities of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).  A significant outreach step for both CMS and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is the creation of a partnership between the HHS Office on Disability and CMS.

Some of the more immediate outreach activities of CMS include: printing the “Medicare and You” handbook in braille, and in large print editions, and developing audio cassettes.  These options are particularly important as there are a range of persons with low vision who do not consider themselves blind.  These publications should be available in the CMS publications warehouse starting April 19, 2004.  Advocates can obtain information about these materials and their availability by calling 1(800)MEDICARE.

Additional outreach efforts focus on providing resources for the State Health Insurance Assistance Programs (SHIP) and Regional Education About Choices In Health (REACH) - Outreach to People with Disabilities programs. The SHIP and REACH programs provide education, counseling, and information about Medicare, and link beneficiaries to resources and services. These materials are also available for the public. A particularly useful REACH document is REACH 2004/Module4 (April 2004), a power point program available on CD-ROM, which discusses the Medicare-approved drug discount card.  This drug card training tool can be obtained through Charlotte Newman at CMS:  Advocates should also ask to be put on Ms. Newman’s “Listserv” for prescription discount drug card training tools.  Another useful resource for information about drug card development can be found on the CMS website at

CMS has begun to evaluate its website in terms of its accessibility for purposes of Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1998 (29 U.S.C. 794d).  The law applies to all federal agencies when they develop, procure, maintain, or use electronic and information technology. Agencies must give disabled employees and members of the public access to information that is comparable to the access available to others. This is an important aspect of the CMS and HHS focus on disability and access to information on the web.  CMS has a check list that can be used in evaluating website compliance:

In addition, advocates should be in touch with the Center for Medicare Advocacy and the ABC Coalition.  The Center for Medicare Advocacy provides information and assistance on behalf of Medicare beneficiaries of all ages.  A great deal of information about Medicare coverage, appeals and the new prescription programs is available on the Center’s website at The ABC Coalition is a collaboration of organizations, including the Center for Medicare Advocacy, that focus on issues of concern to Medicare beneficiaries of all ages. The goal of the Coalition is to educate low-income Medicare beneficiaries about Medicare benefits, help them make informed choices about the prescription programs, and facilitate their actual enrollment for the new Medicare benefits.  The Coalition’s website is


© Center for Medicare Advocacy, Inc.