Benefit Bulletin: March 2021

Benefit Bulletin: March 2021

Can You Live On Social Security Alone?

By Rick Delaney, Chairman of the Board, TSCL

Social Security was never designed to be the sole source of retirement income.  It replaces around 40 percent of the average earnings of its beneficiaries.  Pensions and savings form the two other major streams of retirement income, but people who retire with all three sources of retirement income are rare.  Even worse, recent research from the National Institute of Retirement Security found that more than 40% of older adults have no retirement income other than Social Security.

If you or someone you know is struggling to make their Social Security benefits stretch from one month to another, there are two Medicare programs that can help with medical costs for those eligible — Medicare Savings Programs which cover some Part B costs, and Medicare Extra Help which provides help with prescription costs.

Medicare Savings Programs cover the cost of the Medicare Part B premium, saving a person $148.50 per month in 2021.  Depending on income, those with the lowest income may also qualify for additional benefits that cover the Part B deductible and out-of-pocket costs.  People with incomes in 2020 of up to $1,456 per month (individual) or $1,960 (married couples) might be eligible if they have limited savings and resources of $7,860 (individuals) or $11,800 (married couples).  These limits are slightly higher for Hawaii and Alaska.  This program is administered through state Medicaid programs and states may have guidelines that allow people with slightly higher income to enroll.  If interested ,contact your local Medicaid office to apply.

Medicare Extra Help helps pay for some, or most, of the out-of-pocket costs for Medicare prescription drug coverage.  It is also known as the Part D “Low-Income” subsidy.  Extra Help pays for the Part D premium up to a certain amount (specific to your state), lowers the cost of your prescription drugs, gives you special enrollment periods to switch plans, and eliminates the Part D late enrollment penalty if you did not enroll in Part D by your original deadline.  If your income is under $1,615 (individuals) or $2,175 (married couples) and you have limited savings and resources, you might be eligible.  Apply for Medicare Extra Help on the Social Security website

Advocates who help retirees enroll in these programs say that, even if your income is slightly above the eligibility limits, you might still qualify because certain types of income and assets may not be counted.

Need more help?  Free one-on-one counseling is available through State Health Insurance Programs (SHIP).  To get contact info for your area visit