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Assistance programs that help seniors with health care costs

Dear Savvy Senior,

Are there any programs that you know of that help seniors with their Medicare expenses? I’m 67 and live primarily on my Social Security, and am having a hard time paying my Medicare premiums, deductibles, co-pays and prescription drug costs.

– Need some help

Dear Need,

There are several financial assistance programs that can help Medicare beneficiaries who are having a tough time paying their out-of-pocket health care costs. Here’s what’s offered, along with the eligibility requirements and how to apply.

Medicare savings

Let’s start with a program that helps lower-income Medicare beneficiaries pay premiums and out-of-pocket costs for Medicare Parts A and B. It’s called the Medicare Savings Program (MSP), and it has several different benefit levels for people with different financial resources.

At its most generous, the program will pay your Part B premium and pretty much all your Medicare deductibles and coinsurance. At its least generous, the program will pay just your Part B premium.

To qualify for a MSP, the minimum standard set by Medicare, is an income under 135 percent of the federal poverty level, which at the moment works out to around $1,313 a month for individuals.

Everything counts towards income, including payouts from 401(k) plans, pensions, Social Security and help from family members. Medicare also allows states to impose an asset test, which can be as little as $7,080 per individual, not counting your house or car, but counting retirement savings and bank accounts.

But some states have made their MSP programs a lot more generous, with much higher income limits and in some cases no asset tests at all. And the program may be called something else in your state. To find out if you qualify or to apply, contact your local Medicaid office – call 800-633-4227 for contact information.