If you already have Medicare, you know that the coverage is very valuable, but it is far from free health care. Medicare charges substantial premiums, can require you to pay part of the cost of some services, and does not cover a number of other services at all.
That’s why many seniors have some kind of supplemental coverage, either from a private Medicare supplement (Medigap) plan or from a former employer. Others join Medicare Advantage plans that offer some limits on what you have to spend for health services out of your own pocket, though these plans can charge extra premiums and usually restrict what doctors you can see.
But paying for health care is especially challeng-ing for people with limited incomes. Despite the rhetoric we sometimes hear about seniors being very wealthy, in reality, there are not all that many Warren Buffets out there.
About half of people with Medicare have incomes below $22,000 a year. For them, even routine Medi-care premiums and health care costs can be a real financial burden — and an unexpected expense can be devastating.
So it’s important to know that help is out there if you or someone you know has Medicare and has limited financial resources. Here are some of the main programs designed to help people with Medicare afford health care:
- The Part D Extra Help program, run through Social Security, can cover most or all of your Part D prescription drug costs. You can learn more and apply online at www.socialsecurity.gov/prescriptionhelp, the Social Security website.
- Medicare Savings Programs run through each state’s Medicaid agency can cover your Medicare Part B premium ($104.90 per month in 2013), and, depending on your income, can cover your Medicare cost-sharing as well.
- People with low incomes or high health care expenses may be eligible for their state’s Medicaid program, which covers a number of services that Medicare does not.
You’ll want to talk to a local counselor in your state to help you find out more. You can call 1-800-MEDICARE and ask for a referral to your local State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) or go to this website http://www.familiesusa.org/resources/program-locator and click on your state.
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