Mark Harvey — A Medicare Savings Programs primer


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I’m hoping to get your attention. How did I do?

You’ve heard of the “greedy geezer” syndrome, right? This is the myth that says that all of us “old folks” just voraciously gobble up all the resources, with all kinds of programs and freebies and discounts and so on, and let everyone else be DAMNED!

Wanna bet?

Here’s a fact: The percentage of folks 60-or-better who are at or below the Federal poverty level in Clallam, Jefferson, Grays Harbor and Pacific counties has gone up in the last 10 years — yes, UP. In other words, a higher percentage of us are worse off than we were 10 years ago. I find that (a) ridiculous, (b) appalling, and so I’m going to try to (c) do something about it, so …

PLEASE READ THIS, whether you find it interesting or not! Because, if it doesn’t help you, it may help someone you know.

Let me ask you this: If you’re single, is your income at or below $1,313 per month? If you’re married, is it at or below $$1,765 per month? Yes? OK.

If you’re single, are your assets at or below $7,080? Don’t count the house or the car or your stuff, just money in the bank, stocks, bonds, other real estate, etc — yes?

If you’re a couple, are your assets at or below $10,620? Yes?

Then you probably just got your Medicare Part B premium paid for, to the tune of $100-ish per month.

Yes, I’m serious. There three programs that are referred to as the “Medicare Savings Programs.” They are known by weird acronyms, like QMB (Qualified Medicare Beneficiary), SLMB (Specified Low-Income Medicare Beneficiary) and QI (Qualifying Individual). I don’t care if you remember that, but I do care if you remember this: The last two will pay for your Part B premiums and the first one (QMB) will also pay your Part B deductibles, coinsurance and copayments.

We’re talking about paying for the heat here, right? Or food? Or medicine? Now, try this:

If your income and assets are at or below the figures above, you also qualify for Medicare Part D “extra help” (aka “Low Income Subsidy”). “Extra help” covers all or part of Part D premiums, deductibles, some co-pays and provides coverage through the “gap” (aka “donut hole”).

If you’re on Medicare and not comatose, you understand what I just said, more or less. If you’re suddenly NOT paying for Part B premiums (and maybe more) AND you’re reducing or eliminating your Part D premiums and deductibles AND getting prescription drug coverage through the donut-hole, your household income just went UP!

And for those of you who are Medicaid wonks, yes, the Medicare Savings Programs are a form of Medicaid, but they are specifically exempted from estate recovery, so relax.

Please do this, or cut it out and stick it squarely in the face of somebody you care about, because there are thousands of us in these four counties who qualify for these things and just don’t know it! So, we just don’t do it, and then we struggle — and things often go downhill from there.

No, these won’t make you rich, but they will help — considerably! — every day of every month.

What do you do? Well, the easiest way (if you’ve got the equipment and the savvy) is to go to https://www.washingtonconnection.org/home/ to apply for the Medicare Savings Programs; usually, when you apply for those, the “system” will set you up with Part D “extra help” automatically. OR, you can go to the Social Security web site (I know, but that’s how it works) to http://www.socialsecurity.gov/prescriptionhelp/ to apply for “extra help.”

OR, you can call any of the numbers at the end of this column and say any of the terms I’ve used here, and decent people will know what you’re talking about and help you — for free.

That’s it. That’s all. Please don’t be intimidated by or get hung-up about (or hung-up in) the bureaucracy or acronyms or whatever. Who cares?? We’re talking about your life here! And it will NOT help your kids (or anybody else) for you to do without, when you could do something about it and reduce some of the worry — yours and theirs.

Just do it. If you need help, call these numbers — it’ll go well, I promise.

Help yourself. Please.

Mark Harvey is the director of Information and Assistance for Olympic Area Agency on Aging. He can be reached at harvemb@dshs.wa.gov or 532-0520 in Aberdeen, (360) 942-2177 in Raymond or (360) 642-3634. FACEBOOK: Olympic Area Agency on Aging-Information &Assistance.

 

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