Help is available for paying Medicare expenses

These are the quickest, easiest ways I know of to help Medicare recipients who are not “well to do.”

By Mark Harvey


I was hoping to get your attention. How did I do?

Those of you with better long-term memory than mine (which is almost everybody), might be thinking, “Gee, that sounds familiar. I think he’s done that before.” You’re right: I have done that before; so, why am I doing it again? Fair question.

The fair answer is that what I’m about to tell you represents two of the quickest and easiest ways I know of to genuinely help Medicare recipients who are not “well to do.” So please read this, whether you find it interesting or not — because even 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 $1,357 per month? Or if you’re married, is it at or below $1,827 per month? Yes?

If you’re single, are your assets at or below $7,390? (Don’t count the house or the car or your stuff — just money in the bank, stocks, bonds, other real estate, etc.) Or if you’re a couple, are your assets at or below $11,090? Yes?

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

Yes, I’m serious. There are three programs referred to as the Medicare Savings Programs. They are known by weird acronyms: 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, co-insurance and co-payments.

We’re talking about being able to pay 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 and deductibles, along with some co-pays. It also provides coverage through the “gap” or “doughnut hole.” As a matter of fact, if your income and assets are a bit higher than the figures above, you can still get partial help with your Part D plan.

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), andyou’re reducing or eliminating your Part D premiums and deductibles, and you’re getting prescription drug coverage through the doughnut 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 act on this, or cut this column out and stick it squarely in the face of somebody you care about, because thousands of people in these counties qualify for these things and just don’t know it — so we just don’t do it, and then we struggle. Things often go downhill from there.

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

What do you need to do? Well, the easiest way (if you’ve got the equipment and the savvy) is to go to 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 website (I know, but that’s how it works) at to apply for “extra help.”

Or you can call any of the numbers at the end of this column and use any of the terms I’ve used here, and decent people will know what you’re talking about and help you — at no charge.

That’s it. That’s all. Please don’t be intimidated by or get hung up about 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 as well as 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 the Olympic Area Agency on Aging. He can be reached by email at; by phone at 360-532-0520 in Aberdeen, 360-942-2177 in Raymond, or 360-642-3634; or through Facebook at Olympic Area Agency on Aging-Information & Assistance.