Benefit Bulletin: March/April 2020

Benefit Bulletin: March/April 2020

What to do When You Can’t Afford Medicare Premiums

By Rick Delaney, Chairman of the Board

Medicare Part B premiums jumped $9.10 per month in 2020 — one of the biggest increases in recent years.  While the Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) increased benefits by 1.6 percent in 2020, Medicare Part B premiums climbed 6.7 percent, more than four times faster.  A jump of this size can put older household budgets into a bind, forcing retirees to go without essentials when they run short before their next Social Security check.

If you have limited income and savings, there are three Medicare Savings Programs that help pay Medicare costs.  If you qualify, your Medicare Part B premium will no longer be deducted from your monthly Social Security check.  Over the rest of the year, that could be worth an extra $144.60 per month in your Social Security check, and more than $1,300 in higher Social Security income through the end of the year (especially if you qualify for up to three months of retroactive payments).  If you qualify, you will automatically get Extra Help, the Medicare program that helps with Part D prescription drug costs.

To qualify, you must meet your state’s income and asset limits.  The information listed below show the 2019 baseline gross monthly income and asset limits but, even if your income or assets are slightly higher, you should still apply because these limits are somewhat higher for 2020, and some states have different guidelines.

Qualified Medicare Beneficiary (QMB):

Income            :           $1,061 Individual                   $1,430 Couple

  • If you qualify you should not be billed for Medicare covered services when seeing Medicare providers or providers in your Medicare Advantage plan’s network.

Specified Low-Income Medicare Beneficiary (SLMB)

Income:           $1,269 Individual                   $1,711 Couple

Qualifying Individual (QI):

Income                        $1,426 Individual                   $1,923 Couple

All of the above programs limit assets (such as savings, stocks or certificates of deposit) to:

Assets:             $7,730 Individual                  $11,600 Couple

In all states the following assets are not counted:

  • Your primary home
  • One car
  • Household goods
  • Burial spaces
  • Burial funds up to $1,500 per person
  • Life insurance with a cash value of less than $1,500

To learn whether you or someone you care for qualifies, call your local Medicaid office, Family Social Services Department, or State Health Insurance Assistance Program ( to learn if you are eligible.