Medicare is an insurance option for most American seniors, but if enrollment is not done on time or correctly, it can become a confusing challenge.

Learn more about Medicare at noon Wednesday at the Finney County Extension Office, 501 S. Ninth St., on the fairgrounds in Garden City. Bring a bag lunch; dessert and drinks will be provided.

Carol Ann Crouch, Scott County Extension agent, will share information on Medicare and Medicaid so that you will know where to go for help and make more informed choices in your coverage. You also will learn about the Medicare Extra Help program, which allows qualified low-income senior citizens to save money on their prescription drug expenses.

Extra Help is provided through the Social Security Administration. There are income and resource limits, but if you qualify, the subsidy provided by Extra Help pays a portion of Medicare prescription drug plan costs including monthly premiums, the annual deductible and co-payment or co-insurance amount for covered drugs. Many people who qualify can save up to 75 percent on their premiums and drug costs. Even if you are not sure you might qualify, you should apply for Extra Help.

"One lady was raising her two grandchildren on her Social Security income. She cut back on some of her medications because she didn't feel she could afford them," said Mary Lou Odle, a Kansas State Research and Extension district agent and a SHICK counselor in Salina. "Qualifying for Extra Help, she could afford the medications she needed."

Other examples include an 80-year-old woman who had to work part-time to make the co-payment for her medication and pay her bills. Qualifying for Extra Help allowed her to stop working and still afford her medications.

In another case, a 40-year-old disabled man was approved for Extra Help, which allowed him to afford his medications and continue to live by himself.

Several K-State Research and Extension agents and area specialists throughout the state received a small grant from the Kansas Department of Aging, to reach out to eligible Kansans to inform them about "Extra Help" and encourage them to apply. Finney County Extension is participating, in partnership with Senior Health Insurance Counseling for Kansas (SHICK), in a free program offering Kansans an opportunity to talk with trained, community volunteers about their Medicare insurance questions.

For more information about applying for Extra Help:

Go to the Social Security Web site at, call Social Security at (800) 772-1213 or visit a local Social Security office;

Call a trained SHICK volunteer at the Senior Center of Finney County at 272-3620;

Call Kansas SHICK at (800) 860-5260.

Get more tips from Linda Beech on her blog, Living Well, at