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A federal assistance program that helps low-income Medicare beneficiaries afford prescription drug coverage
Medicare Extra help can save eligible beneficiaries about $4,900 each year on Medicare prescription drug coverage
The Social Security Administration (SSA) oversees Medicare Extra Help
Income and asset limits for the Medicare Extra Help program change every year
You cannot use Extra Help with a Medicare Advantage plan
Medicare provides health insurance to seniors and those with certain disabilities. It comes in four parts. Medicare Part A and B make up Original Medicare, which covers hospital insurance and visits to a doctor. Original Medicare doesn’t cover prescription drugs, though.
To get prescription drug coverage, Medicare recipients need to pay for a Part D Medicare Prescription Drug plan, which means a monthly premium and copays or coinsurance.
If you can’t afford a Medciare Part D plan, you may qualify for Medicare Extra Help. The program, which is run by the Social Security Administration (SSA), reduces or eliminates the monthly premiums and annual deductibles. It also decreases the cost of your copays and coinsurance. You cannot use it with Medicare Advantage plans (Part C).
The amount of assistance varies by income, but Medicare Extra Help coverage saves eligible beneficiaries about $4,900 each year, according to the Social Security Administration.
In this article:
You will automatically qualify for Medicare Extra Help if you have Medicare and also meet any of these conditions:
To learn more about whether or not you qualify for Medicaid, check our state-by-state guide to Medicaid.
If you don’t qualify for Extra Help based on the criteria above, you may still qualify if you are at least 65 years old, live in the U.S., have Medicare Part A and Part B, and your annual income is within the annual income and total asset limits.
Income and asset limits are based on the federal poverty guidelines (also known as the federal poverty level or FPL). The poverty guidelines change each year, so make sure to check again around February or March. Below are the Medicare Extra Help income and asset limits for 2019.
|Filing status||Annual income||Total assets|
Your assets include money that you have across all types of savings accounts, checking accounts, and investment accounts. Make sure to consider your retirement accounts like an IRA or 401(k), as well any stocks or bonds you own. Real estate that you own other than your primary residence also counts toward your total assets in most cases.
Your assets do not include your home, a car, a burial plot, furniture, or any other personal items. Life insurance policies are excluded and you can subtract $1,500 per person for burial expenses. You don’t have to include any advance tax credits you get, such as for the earned income tax credit, or money you received for housing assistance. You can find a complete list of exemptions on the SSA website.
Even if you qualify for Medicare Extra Help, your income level will determine whether you qualify for full or partial Extra Help.
Anyone who receives Medicaid or a Medicare Savings Plan will receive full Extra Help. You also receive full extra help if you have Medicare and earn less than $1,425 per month in 2019 ($1,922 for joint filers). Below are the full Medicare Extra Help prices:
The 2019 state benchmarks for Medicare Extra Help premiums run between about $22 and $40.
If you have Medicare and earn up to $1,581 per month ($2,134 for joint filers) in 2019, you will receive partial Extra Help. Below are the partial Medicare Extra Help prices:
|If you have Medicaid or MSPs||Medicare only and monthly income of $1,425 or less||Medicare only and monthly income of $1,581 or less|
|Premiums||$0||$0||25%, 50%, or 75% of local benchmark|
|Deductible||$0||$0||up to $85|
|Generic drug copay||$1.25 to $3.40||$3.40||Full plan copays or 15% coinsurnace; $3.40 after you spend $5,100|
|Name-brand drug copay||$3.80 to $8.50||$8.50||Full plan copays or 15% coinsurnace; $8.50 or 5% of drug cost after you spend $5,100|
You automatically qualify for Extra Help and do not need to apply if you receive full Medicaid benefits, you’re enrolled in a Medicare Savings Program, or you receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.
In all other scenarios, you can apply online for Medicare Extra Help through the Social Security Administration site. You can also apply in person at your local Social Security office or call 1-800-722-1213 to apply over the phone. You can also call to request a physical application by mail.
Once you apply, the SSA will review your application and send a letter saying whether or not you were approved. If you do qualify for Extra Help, you need to enroll in a Medicare Part D prescription drug plan. You can do so right away because approval for Extra Help qualifies you for a Medicare special enrollment period. Compare plans in your state on the Medicare website, which will help you apply for one directly through the insurer.
Once you have a plan, you’ll have to provide the insurer with documentation to prove that you are receiving Extra Help. The documents that count as proof include
Once you provide documentation, you will immediately start paying the lower Extra Help drug prices.
Remember that the income and asset limits for Extra Help change every year. Just because you qualify one year does not mean you will qualify the next. You’ll receive a notice from Medicare around the end of September if the SSA believes you no longer automatically qualify for Extra Help.
In this case, you will need to reapply for the program through SSA.gov or your local Medicaid office.
Policygenius’ editorial content is not written by an insurance agent. It’s intended for informational purposes and should not be considered legal or financial advice. Consult a professional to learn what financial products are right for you.
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