By Joan Lamb Social Security manager

Given the current economic climate, buying a nice gift for Mother’s Day may be more difficult than in years past. But people across the nation are discovering that the best gifts are often free.

This Mother’s Day, you can show Mom how to save an estimated $4,000 a year on her Medicare prescription drug costs. Here’s how.

If your mother is covered by Medicare and has limited income and resources, she may be eligible for Extra Help — available through Social Security — to pay part of her monthly premiums, annual deductibles, and prescription co-payments. The Extra Help is estimated to be worth about $4,000 per year.

To figure out whether your mother is eligible, Social Security needs to know her income and the value of her savings, investments and real estate (other than the home she lives in). To qualify for the extra help, she must be receiving Medicare and have:

¿ Income limited to $16,755 for an individual or $22,695 for a married couple living together. Even if her annual income is higher, she still may be able to get some help with monthly premiums, annual deductibles, and prescription co-payments. Some examples where income may be higher include if she and, if married, her husband:

¿ Support other family members who live with them;

¿ Have earnings from work; or

¿ Live in Alaska or Hawaii.

¿ Resources limited to $13,070 for an individual or $26,120 for a married couple living together. Resources include such things as bank accounts, stocks, and bonds. We do not count her house or car as resources.

Social Security has an easy-to-use online application that you can help complete for your mom. You can find it at www.socialsecurity.gov/prescriptionhelp. To apply by phone or have an application mailed to you, call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) and ask for the Application for Help with Medicare Prescription Drug Plan Costs (SSA-1020). Or go to the nearest Social Security office.

To learn more about the Medicare prescription drug plans and special enrollment periods, visit www.medicare.gov or call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227; TTY 1-877-486-2048).

Mom will be grateful when you give her a useful gift this year: help her save an estimated $4,000 a year on Medicare prescription drugs. It won’t cost you anything more than a little bit of quality time with her — something you and Mom both want anyway. These rules apply to Dad as well, so plan ahead for your Father’s Day gift too.