Navigating Prescription Expenses


Does Medicare offer financial assistance programs to help with medication costs? I recently enrolled in a Medicare drug plan but need some assistance paying for my medications.

There is a low-income subsidy program called ‘Extra Help’ that assists Medicare beneficiaries by paying their monthly premiums, annual deductibles and co-payments related to their Medicare (Part D) prescription drug coverage.

The Inflation Reduction Act that was signed into law in late 2022 expanded coverage and benefits under Extra Help beginning in January 2024. It is important to check the new eligibility requirements and apply for coverage if you have not been automatically enrolled.

The Extra Help benefit is estimated to be worth about $5,300 per year. Currently, about 13 million people are enrolled in the program. However, it is estimated that approximately 3 million more Medicare beneficiaries may qualify for Extra Help under the new guidelines.

The amount of financial assistance available under the program depends on income and assets. If you qualify, and unless you receive a partial subsidy, you will pay no premium or deductible, and no more than $4.50 for each generic drug or $11.20 for each brand-name drug your plan covers in 2024.

To be eligible for Extra Help, a Medicare beneficiaries’ assets must be limited to $17,220 for individuals or $34,360 for married couples. Bank accounts, stocks, bonds, mutual funds and IRAs count as assets, but homes, vehicles, personal belongings, life insurance and burial plots are not included in the calculation.

There are also income guidelines that must be met to qualify. Under those limits, annual income may not exceed $22,590 for an individual or $30,660 for married couples. A beneficiary with higher income may still qualify if they support a family member who lives with them or lives in Alaska or Hawaii. In addition, cash payments received from government programs for household expenses such as food, rent, mortgage payments, utilities and property taxes will not count towards income.

How to Apply

There are three ways to apply for Extra Help. You can apply online at, over the phone by calling 800-772-1213 or in person at your local Social Security office.

The application form requires your Social Security number and information about your bank balances, pensions and investments. Social Security will review your application and send a letter within a few weeks letting you know whether you qualify.

If you do not qualify for Extra Help, you may still get help from a state pharmacy assistance program or a patient assistance program. Visit to search for these programs.

Other Medicare Assistance

If you are eligible for Extra Help, you may also qualify for assistance on your Medicare expenses through your state’s Medicare Savings Program.

State Medicaid programs partner with the federal government, resulting in income and asset qualifications that differ based on where you live. Medicare Savings Programs will pay the entire Medicare Part B premium each month. In some cases, they may also cover your Medicare deductibles, coinsurance and copayments, depending on your income level. Income and asset qualifications vary depending on your state. To determine eligibility, contact your state Medicaid office.

You can also receive help through your State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP), which provides free Medicare counseling in person or over the phone. Visit or call 877-839-2675 to locate a counselor in your area.

Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living" book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization's official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.


Published March 8, 2024

Many Taxpayers Benefit From "Where's My Refund?"

The latest Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Tax Time Guide highlights the popular use by taxpayers of the "Where’s My Refund?" tool. Tax-filing is in high gear and the IRS issues millions of tax refunds each week. Taxpayers are flocking to the IRS website to use the "Where’s My Refund?" tool.

This tool has three main sections. First, a taxpayer can confirm that his or her return has been received. The second stage is for the IRS to approve the return. The third step is for a tax refund to be issued, if applicable.

Millions of taxpayers anticipate receiving a refund. With the additional funding provided by the Inflation Reduction Act, the IRS has provided several enhancements to the "Where’s My Refund?" tool. The updated version now will explain the refund status in plain language. It is also available on smartphones with the IRS2Go app. In some cases, the tool will indicate if a taxpayer should contact the IRS to provide additional information.

To use the "Where’s My Refund?" tool, the first step is to enter a Social Security number or Individual Taxpayer Identification number, filing status and the exact dollar amount of the expected refund. The refund status is normally available within one day after e-filing a tax return or within four weeks after mailing in a paper return. The IRS updates the "Where’s My Refund?" tool each night.

There are several factors that may delay a refund. If a tax return has errors or requires additional review or forms, it may be delayed. Some taxpayers are delayed because they have not correctly calculated the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) or the Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC).

The IRS is available to assist with questions on refunds if a return has been filed electronically and 21 days have passed. If the return was mailed, the IRS will respond to inquiries after six weeks.

The IRS reminds taxpayers there is extensive information available on Assistance can be found for the following scenarios: selecting a qualified tax preparer, using the IRS Free File to complete a return or using the Interactive Tax Assistant to answer questions. An excellent source for filing information include IRS videos that may be found online.

The IRS encourages taxpayers to file electronically. Most electronic filers will receive a refund within 21 days. Income tax returns for this filing season are due by Monday, April 15, 2024.


Published March 1, 2024

Dividing Personal Possessions Without Dividing the Family

Do you have any suggestions on how to divide my personal possessions after I die without causing conflict? I want to leave my jewelry, art, family heirlooms and antique furniture to my children without hurting feelings.

Distributing personal possessions among children or other loved ones can often be a tricky task. Deciding who should get what without showing favoritism, hurting feelings or causing a feud can be difficult even for close-knit families who enter the process with the best intentions. Here are a few tips to consider to help in dividing your personal possessions with minimal conflict.

Sweating the Small Stuff

Sometimes, the small, simple items of little monetary value that are not mentioned in the estate plan that cause the most conflicts. This is because the value we attach to small personal possessions is usually sentimental or emotional and families often forget to talk about the simple items.

Family disputes can also escalate over whether things are being divided fairly by monetary value. For items of higher value, like jewelry, antiques and art, consider getting an appraisal to assure fair distribution. Search online to locate an appraiser in your area.

Dividing Fairly

The best solution for passing along personal possessions is to go through your house with your children or other heirs either separately or together to find out which items each person would like to inherit and why. They may have some emotional attachment to something. If more than one person wants the same thing, you will have to make the ultimate decision.

After talking with your heirs, make a list with a description of each item and who should receive it after you die. Depending on the laws in your state and the value of the items, it may be legally enforceable if you handwrite it on paper, sign and date it and your will or trust references the document. In these situations, you can revise it anytime you want. If the items have a high monetary value, speak with an estate planning attorney about including the list directly in your will or trust. You may also want to consider writing an additional letter or create an audio or video recording that further explains your intentions.

If you do not want to make a list, you may specify a strategy for dividing up the rest of your property. Here are some popular methods that are fair and reasonable:

Take turns choosing: Use a round-robin process where your heirs take turns choosing the items they would like to have. If who goes first becomes an issue, they can always flip a coin or draw straws. To simplify things, break down the dividing process room-by-room instead of tackling the entire house. To keep track of who gets what, make a list or use adhesive dots with a color assigned to each person to tag the item.

Have a family auction: Give each person involved the same amount of play money or use virtual points or poker chips to bid on the items they want. Assigning a value to each item will be necessary, thus having an appraisal of the items can aid this endeavor.

Use online resources: For families who want help or live far apart, there are online resources that can guide families through personal property distribution and important factors that can help avoid or manage conflict.

It is also very important to discuss your estate plans in advance with your heirs, so they know what to expect. Another option is to consider distributing some items now during life to help avoid conflict later on.

Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living" book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization's official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.

Driving Safety Tips

What safety tips can you recommend for older drivers? My elderly parent had a fender bender last month and I worry about their safety.

As the number of Americans driving past their 70s increases, there are a variety of things to do to help maintain or improve your parent’s driving skills. Here are some recommendations by driving rehabilitation specialists that work with older drivers.

Get an eye exam: Since the information relevant to driving is predominantly visual, getting an eye exam is a great step towards ensuring safety while driving. Annual checkups are recommended to keep track of vision and to ensure eyewear aligns with any changes in vision over time.

Get a physical or wellness exam: It is very important to monitor changes in overall health as it relates to driving. Medical conditions like arthritis, dementia, diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, sleep apnea and stroke can all affect driving.

Many seniors may use various medications, or combinations of medications, that can potentially lead to drowsiness or lightheadedness. Potential side effects to medications can impair judgment or reflexes and the alertness necessary for safe driving. Conducting annual physical or wellness examinations and a review of medications is a wise way to ensure safer driving.

Take a refresher course: Many organizations have mature driver improvement courses that can help refine driving skills and teach adaptations to slower reflexes, diminished vision and other age-related physical changes that can impact driving. Taking a class may also earn a discount on auto insurance. To locate a class, search online or check with your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles. Most courses cost around $20 to $30 and can be taken online.

Make some adjustments: Adjusting when and where driving occurs is another way to help stay safe. Some simple adjustments include not driving after dark or during rush hour traffic, avoiding major highways or other busy roads and not driving in poor weather conditions.

Evaluate driving: To stay on top of your parent’s driving abilities you should take a ride with your parent from time-to-time to determine problem areas. Some things to look out for include driving at inappropriate speeds, tailgating, drifting between lanes, difficulty seeing, backing up or changing lanes, reacting slowly, confusion or making poor driving decisions.

If your parent needs a more comprehensive evaluation, you can seek assistance from a driver rehabilitation specialist who is trained to evaluate older drivers and offer suggestions and adaptations to help keep them safe. This type of assessment can run anywhere between $100 to $500 or more. To find a specialist in your area, conduct an online search with terms like “driving practitioner directory.”

If driving is no longer safe, you should compile a list of names and phone numbers of family, friends and local transportation services that can be called on for a ride.

To find out what transportation services are available, contact the Eldercare Locator (800-677-1116), which will direct you to the area agency on aging for assistance.

Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living" book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization's official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.


Published February 23, 2024

Peak IRS Phone Support After Presidents Day


The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) 2024 filing season is now in full swing. The IRS encourages taxpayers to use online tools and learn about the "free help" available on

IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel stated, "We have worked hard to provide better taxpayer service for people this filing season with more options to reach the IRS in convenient ways. We want taxpayers to have access to the help they need around the clock.'s expanded tools and information make that easier for taxpayers, especially during this peak period for IRS phone lines around Presidents Day."

The IRS reports approximately 98% of taxpayers will file electronically this year. The IRS encourages everyone to file electronically and use direct deposit for a faster refund. There also are multiple free and online tax preparation options. These include the IRS Free File, the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) programs. If taxpayers have income of $79,000 or less, the IRS Free File software can be used. Taxpayers with any level of income may use the IRS Free File Fillable Forms.

A new option for a limited number of taxpayers is the IRS Direct File program. This is available currently to federal and state employees in 12 participating states. Military members and some veterans may receive assistance from the MilTax program run by the Department of Defense.

There are multiple services on that also assist taxpayers.
  1. IRS Online Account — If a taxpayer has a Social Security number (SSN) or an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN), an IRS Online Account can be created. This can provide information on a balance due and payment options, allow the creation of a payment plan, access prior tax returns, locate the Adjusted Gross Income number from previous tax returns and sign tax authorizations from a professional advisor.
  2. Where's My Refund? — If a taxpayer has a refund pending, the "Where's My Refund?" tool on will provide useful information. This will explain refund status and the updated version uses plain language. If the taxpayer qualifies for an earned income tax credit (EITC) or additional child tax credit (ACTC) refund, those will start to be issued by February 27. The "Where's My Refund?" tool may enable taxpayers to find the projected refund date.
  3. Interactive Tax Assistant — The IRS has updated the Interactive Tax Assistant (ITA) tool this year. Taxpayers can ask basic questions such as: Should I file a tax return? What is my filing status? Is this relative an eligible dependent? Is this income taxable? Am I eligible for a credit? Is this expense deductible?
  4. Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) — Low and moderate-income workers and families may be eligible to receive a valuable EITC tax break. The EITC Assistant on will help taxpayers understand eligibility, if children or relatives are qualifying, an estimated amount of the credit and preferred filing status.
  5. Identity Protection PIN (IP PIN) — An excellent way to reduce the risk of identity theft is to obtain an Identity Protection PIN (IP PIN). This is a six-digit number known only to you and the IRS. You can obtain an IP PIN on with the "Get an IP PIN" tool.
There are several other helpful sections of If you want to learn more about tax preparers, you can go to the IRS Directory of Federal Tax Return Preparers with Credentials and Select Qualifications. A tax preparer will sign your return and include his or her preparer tax identification number (PTIN).

Editor's Note: The IRS has invested significant resources in upgrades to The online tools assist millions of taxpayers each year and reduce the number of phone calls directed to IRS staff. Taxpayers are encouraged to learn about the many services available on


Published February 16, 2024

Does Medicare Cover Weight-Loss Treatments?


Does Medicare cover weight-loss treatments for retirees?

Traditional Medicare covers some weight-loss treatments such as counseling and certain types of surgery for beneficiaries. Unfortunately, Medicare does not cover weight-loss programs or medications. Here is what you should know.

Who is Eligible?

To be eligible for Medicare-covered weight-loss treatments, the patient's body mass index (BMI), which is an estimate of body fat based on the height and individual's weight, must be 30 or higher.

A BMI of 30 or more increases the risk for many health conditions such as certain cancers, coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke and sleep apnea. To calculate BMI, the National Institutes of Health has a free calculator accessible online at

What is Covered?

For individuals with a BMI of 30 or higher, Medicare Part B will cover up to 12 months of weight-loss counseling conducted by a medical professional in a primary care setting such as a doctor's office. Most counseling sessions entail an initial screening, a dietary assessment and behavioral therapy designed to help you lose weight by focusing on diet and exercise.

Medicare also covers bariatric and metabolic surgery for beneficiaries who have a BMI of 35 or above who also have at least one underlying health condition, such as diabetes or heart disease. To be eligible, a patient must also demonstrate prior efforts to lose weight through dieting or exercise but were unsuccessful. These procedures involve making alterations to the digestive system to help lose weight and improve metabolic health.

One common bariatric surgical procedure covered by Medicare is Roux-en-Y gastric bypass surgery, which reduces the stomach to a small pouch that induces the feeling of fullness even after eating small meals. Another procedure that may be covered is called a laparoscopic adjustable gastric banding, which inserts an inflatable band that creates a gastric pouch encircling the top of the stomach similarly inducing a feeling of fullness.

What is Not Covered?

Medicare does not cover weight-loss programs such as fitness or gym memberships, meal delivery services or weight-loss programs. Additionally, Medicare does not cover any weight-loss medications, but it does cover FDA-approved medications to treat diabetes, which, in some cases, have been found to help with weight loss.

Medicare Part D covers Ozempic and Mounjaro for diabetes only, not for weight loss. Medicare also does not cover Wegovy or Zepbound because they are approved only for weight loss.

Do not start a weight loss prescription without first consulting your primary care physician to determine the benefits and potential risks. Without insurance, weight-loss medications are expensive, often costing $1,000 to $1,300 per month. To help curb costs, try reputable prescription discount websites or, if your income is limited, try patient assistance programs through pharmaceutical companies.

Medicare Advantage

Individuals who are enrolled in a private Medicare Advantage plan, may have coverage for gym memberships and some weight loss and healthy food delivery programs. These are considered expanded supplemental benefits and have gradually been added to some plans to provide coverage for nutrition, health and wellness. Contact your plan provider to see what is covered.

Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living" book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization's official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.


Published February 16, 2024

WCCF is Offering Scholarships to Non-Traditional Students


The Washington County Community Foundation is now offering scholarships to non-traditional students through its Education Matters initiative. 

The following criteria have been established for this first round of scholarships:  

  1. Annual awards will not exceed $3,000 the first twelve months and $5,000 per person in any subsequent twelve-month period.
  2. Scholarship applicants must be a minimum of 28 years old as of the date of application.
  3. Only individuals who can demonstrate continuing legal residence in Washington County for at least the past five years are eligible. Documentation such as tax forms, housing receipts, or utility bills will be used to verify residency and/or household income.
  4. Scholarship awards may be used for tuition, course-related fees, or books only. Checks will only be written to an educational institution or certified training provider.
  5. The application deadline is 3:30 on April 4, 2024. No exceptions.
  6. Adult scholarship awards may not be used to pay for college debt.
  7. Subsequent awards will only be considered for students maintaining at least a 2.5 GPA.

Call the Washington County Community Foundation office at 883-7334 or email to request an application or for more information.

Donors to the Washington County Community Foundation serve as a beacon of hope, creating a legacy of care and compassion that shines for generations to come.

Jinny Scifres Memorial Scholarship Applications Available


The Washington County Community Foundation will be accepting applications for the Jinny Scifres Scholarship.  The scholarship is for any individual planning to attend a post-secondary accredited institution in the 2024-2025 school year and plans to pursue studies in the medical field.  The number and dollar amount of scholarships will be determined by the committee.  Preference may be given to non-traditional nursing students who may be returning to school after starting a family or career, as did Jinny. 

After starting a family, Jinny made the tough decision to return to school and study nursing.  After graduation, she began her nursing career at Washington County Memorial Hospital as an Emergency Room Nurse.  Jinny’s love of nursing eventually led her to several promotions and back to school once again.  She eventually became the Director of Patient Care Services.

Jinny died in the fall of 2000, after bravely battling bone cancer.  Her family and many friends established this scholarship fund in her memory, to assist others who, like Jinny, return to school to study nursing after starting a family or career.  

For questions or an application, please contact Judy or Lindsey at 812-883-7334 or  More information regarding the scholarship as well as the application can be found at  Applications are due by April 4, 2024 at 3:30.

Donors to the Washington County Community Foundation serve as a beacon of hope, creating a legacy of care and compassion that shines for generations to come.

WCCF offering $55,000.00 in Spring Grant Cycle


WCCF has opened their Spring Grant Cycle.  Funds for the $55,000 grant cycle are made possible through our generous donors and the Foundation’s Touch Tomorrow Funds.

Grant applications for the spring grant cycle are available by calling the WCCF office or visiting our website at to download an application.  The application deadline will be 3:30pm, April 4, 2024.

 For more information or to request an application, you may call Judy Johnson or Lindsey Wade-Swift at the Foundation office.  The number is (812) 883-7334.

Donors to the Washington County Community Foundation serve as a beacon of hope, creating a legacy of care and compassion that shines for generations to come.


Do I Need to File a Tax Return This Year?

What are the income tax filing requirements for this tax season? I have not filed a tax return for the past two years because my income was below the filing threshold. I got a part-time job late last year, so I am wondering if I am required to file this year.

The requirement to file a federal income tax return this year will depend on how much you earned last year (in 2023), the source of the income, your age and filing status. Here is a rundown of this tax season’s IRS tax filing requirement thresholds.

If your 2023 gross income, which includes all taxable income but excludes Social Security benefits (unless you are married and filing separately), was below the threshold for your filing status and age, you likely will not have to file. If it exceeds this threshold, you will be required to file.

• Single: $13,850 ($15,700 if you are 65 or older by Jan. 1, 2023).
• Married filing jointly: $27,700 ($29,200 if you or your spouse is 65 or older or $30,700 if you are both over 65).
• Married filing separately: $5 at any age.
• Head of household: $20,800 ($22,650 if you are 65 or older).
• Qualifying surviving spouse: $27,700 ($29,200 if you are 65 or older).

To get a detailed breakdown on federal filing requirements along with information on taxable and nontaxable income, call the IRS at 800-829-3676 and ask them to mail you a free copy of the “1040 and 1040-SR Instructions for Tax Year 2023.” You can also find information online at

Other Financial Situations

Other financial situations can require you to file a tax return, even if your gross income falls below the IRS filing requirements. For example, if you earned more than $400 from self-employment in 2023, owe any taxes on an IRA, Health Savings Account or an alternative minimum tax or receive premium tax credits due to enrollment by you, your spouse or a dependent in a Health Insurance Marketplace plan, you must file.

You will also need to file if you are receiving Social Security benefits and one-half of your benefits plus your other gross income and any tax-exempt interest exceeds $25,000, or $32,000 if you are married and filing jointly.

The IRS offers an online tax tool that asks a series of questions that will help you determine if you are required to file or if you should file because you are due a refund. This process typically takes less than 15 minutes to complete. You can access this tool at and click on “Do I Need to File a Tax Return?” You can also get assistance over the phone by calling the IRS helpline at 800-829-1040.

Check Your State

Even if you are not required to file a federal tax return this year, do not assume that you are exempt from filing state income taxes. State law can vary significantly so the rules for your state might be very different. Check with your state tax agency to determine if you are required to file a state tax return this year.

Tax Preparation Help

If you do need to file a tax return this year, you can file for free through the IRS at if your 2023 adjusted gross income was below $79,000.

For middle and low-income taxpayers who are 60 or older, contact the Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) program for free tax preparation and counseling. Call 800-906-9887 or visit to locate services near you. You can also check online to find nonprofits that provide tax return preparation assistance free of charge for qualified individuals.

Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living" book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization's official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.


Published February 9, 2024

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