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Medicare Savings Programs (MSPs)

Medicare Savings Programs (MSPs) are Medicaid-administered benefits that help cover Medicare premiums. These programs are available for those on Medicare with limited incomes and resources who do not qualify for full Medicaid.

Qualified participants need to meet certain income and resource levels and have Medicare Part A to qualify. The financial eligibility guidelines are set by law but states have the option to raise or, in the case of the asset test, eliminate these guidelines (MSPs may be known by different names in some states).

Applications to participate in this program are generally submitted through a local Medicaid agency. Eligibility is renewed on an annual basis.

Income and Resource Eligibility Limits

1. Qualified Medicare Beneficiary (QMB)

Designed for people with an annual income less than 100% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) and resources under $7,860 if single or $11,800 if married. This program will cover Medicare premiums (Part A and possibly Part B), deductibles as well as copayments and/or coinsurance.

Monthly income limits include a $20 general income disregard; Alaska and Hawaii have slightly higher limits:

  • Residents of 48 states & District of Columbia: $1,083/$1,457 single/married

  • Alaska: $1,349/$1,816 single/married

  • Hawaii: $1,243/$1,673 single/married

2. Specified Low-Income Beneficiary (SLMB)

Designed for seniors/adults with disabilities and an annual income between 100-120% FPL and resources under $7,860 if single or $11,800 if married. If eligible, SLMB will cover the Medicare Part B premium ($144.60 in 2020).

Monthly income limits:

  • Residents of 48 states & District of Columbia, $1,296/$1,744 single/married

  • Alaska, $1,615/$2,175 single/married

  • Hawaii, $1,488/$2,003 single/married

3. Qualifying Individual (QI)

A limited program (sponsored by block-grants to states) available on a first-come, first-serve basis. People with Medicare may qualify with an annual income between 120-135% FPL and resources under $7,860 if single or $11,800 if married. This program may also cover the Medicare Part B premium.

Monthly income limits:

  • Residents of 48 states & District of Columbia, $1,456/$1,960 single/married

  • Alaska, $1,814/$2,445 single/married

  • Hawaii, $1,672/$2,251 single/married

4. Qualified Disabled Working Individual (QDWI)

A program for adults under age 65 and disabled who have recently returned to work but are no longer eligible for premium-free Part A. People may qualify with an annual income at or below 200% FPL with resources under $4,000 if single or $6,000 if married. However, there are additionally earned income disregards that raise the income ceiling for QDWI. This program may also cover the Part A premium.

Monthly income limits include a $20 general income disregard and other earned income disregards; Alaska and Hawaii have slightly higher limits:

  • Residents of 48 states & District of Columbia: $4,338/$5,832 single/married

  • Alaska: $5,401/$7,269 single/married

  • Hawaii: $4,977/$6,697 single/married

Note: The limits above are federal guidelines. Some states may choose to increase the federal guideline amounts or eliminate the resource test altogether. Refer to individual state eligibility rules.

Medicare Savings Program Advantages

Seniors and younger adults with disabilities who do not qualify for Medicaid may enroll in a Medicare Savings Program.

There are two major advantages to enrollment:

  1. Saving money on Medicare costs. Three of the four MSPs cover the Medicare Part B premium, which in 2020 is $144.60 a month for individuals receiving help. Enrollment gives $1,700 back to seniors/adults with disabilities annually.

  2. Automatic extra help. Enrollment into MSPs automatically deems a person eligible to receive the Medicare Part D Low Income Subsidy (LIS/Extra Help). This benefit helps pay for prescription drugs and is estimated by the Social Security Administration to have an annual value of $4,900. If a senior/adult with disabilities is not already enrolled in Part D, there will not be a late enrollment penalty to receive Extra Help.

There are three benefits to participation:

  1. Part B monthly premium ($144.60 in 2020) is paid back into person’s Social Security check for those receiving QMB, SLMB or QI

  2. Waived Part B late enrollment penalty (any Part B penalty premium is waived for people who qualify for QMB, SLMB, and QI)

  3. Automatically receive the Part D Low Income Subsidy/Extra Help*

*If the participant does not join a Part D plan, there is an automatic enrollment into an Extra Help benchmark Part D plan by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). For assistance with the MSP application and Part D plan selection contact your local State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP).

Related Content

Part D Low Income Subsidy (LIS/Extra Help)
The Part D Low Income Subsidy (LIS/Extra Help) program helps pay for a portion of Part D prescription drug plan costs, including Part D premiums.
Qualifying for the Medicare Savings Program or Extra Help
If you are unable to afford Medicare there are benefits such as the Medicare Savings Programs (MSP) that could help. They help cover out-of-pocket costs.
How to Reduce Prescription Drug Costs
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Age Well Planner is an educational website created by nonprofit the National Council on Aging (NCOA). We provide information, resources, and referrals on topics such as: Benefits, Income, and Medicare.

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