JEFFERSON CITY - February 28 is the last day this year for senior citizens to apply for SenioRx, a state drug program designed to provide affordable drugs for low and moderate income seniors.
Even people who signed up for the program last year must re-enroll before the 28th. The only exceptions are those seniors who turn 65 in 2003; they have the chance to enroll within 30 days of their 65th birthday.
"Our goal is to reach as many as eligible seniors as possible who are struggling to pay their prescription drugs," said Laurie Hines, executive director of the program. "It is unacceptable for a senior to have to choose between buying food or buying medicines."
To be eligible for the program, an individual must be 65 or older and have an annual income of no more than $17,000 -- or a cap of $23,000 for a married couple.
To be eligible, an individual cannot be receiving veteran's pharmacy benefits or Medicaid, or have other prescription-drug insurance that is equal or greater than the SenioRx program.
While Hines said officials have predicted about 40,000 Missourians will enroll in the program, she expressed doubts.
"January and February are challenging months, specially because of the bad weather and also because people are still making their tax," she said. "I don't think we will reach 40,000, but we still have some days left and we will keep trying."
Last year, 34,000 seniors applied for the program -- although less than 27,000 were determined to be eligible.
The program pays 60 percent of prescription costs after seniors pay a $25 to $35 enrollment fee and meet a $250 to $500 deductible. The program covers around 200 prescription drugs, including insulin, prenatal vitamins and fluoride preparations. Participants could potentially save up to $5,000 in their pharmacy bill.
"This year the program has changed a little bit as the applications have been simplified and as the enrollment is during January and February," Hines said. "We also want to focus on getting pharmacies more involved."
Maria Chapelle-Nadal, Elderly Advocate of lieutenant governor's office added that this year more than 1,000 chain and independent pharmacies as well as nearly 200 pharmaceutical manufacturers are taking part in the program.
Applications can be picked up in local pharmacies or Area Agencies on Aging. Applications also can be requested on the website at www.missouriseniorx.com. There is also a toll-free telephone at 1-866-556-9316.
"Less people than expected applied because it was a new program, we couldn't reach isolated seniors and there were other competing programs," said Chapelle-Nadal. "Anyway, we did it really well last year, and in 2003, we will do it even better."