There are four programs that can pay some or all of your Medicare Part Bpremiums, deductible and copayments. You must have low income and assets to qualify for any of these programs. Which program you're eligible for depends on how much you have in income and assets. The programs are:
- Medicaid. Eligibility rules for Medicaid differ slightly from state to state, but in general you must have low income (after deducting regular medical bills) and no more than $2,000 to $3,000 in cash or other assets (not counting your home, car, personal and household belongings, and a few other items). If you qualify for Medicaid, it covers almost all your medical costs, including the monthly premium and yearly deductible for Medicare Part B, and the 20 percent of approved medical costs that Part B doesn't pay.
- Qualified Medicare Beneficiary (QMB). You can qualify to become a QMB if your income is a little bit higher than Medicaid eligibility levels, and your assets can be about twice as high as Medicaid limits. The QMB program pays the monthly premium and yearly deductible for Medicare Part B, and the 20 percent of approved medical costs that Part B doesn't pay.
- Specified Low-Income Medicare Beneficiary (SLMB) and Qualifying Individual (QI). To qualify for either of these two programs, you must have low assets -- about the same as with the QMB program. But these two programs allow you to have 20 to 80 percent higher income than QMB does. If you qualify for either of these programs, it will pay your monthly Part B premium, but it doesn't pay for your Part B deductible or copayments.
You apply for all of these programs in one place, your local county Medicaid, Social Services or Social Welfare Department. To find the office nearest you, call the Eldercare Locator at 800-677-1116. Or, you can go online to the Benefits.gov web site and click on the name of your state. This takes you to a page with information about the local offices where you can apply for Medicaid and the other assistance programs.