Legislation Would Make It Easier For Low-Income Beneficiaries To Qualify For Medicare Assistance

Legislation Would Make It Easier For Low-Income Beneficiaries To Qualify For Medicare Assistance

TSCL Supports Low-Income Medicare Provisions, Bush Threatens Veto

The House recently passed legislation that could help millions of seniors.  The Children’s Health and Medicare Protection Act (CHAMP) contained several senior-friendly provisions, including:

  • Extra Medicare assistance to pay drug costs for millions of low-income seniors.  The bill makes it easier for seniors to receive “Extra Help” by substantially increasing the amount of savings and other financial assets a person can have and still qualify.  Extra Help pays most of the costs of the Part D benefit and eliminates the doughnut hole coverage gap for seniors living on less than $1,276 per month.  The legislation raises the asset amount from $4,000 to $17,000 for individuals and from $6,000 to $34,000 for couples.
  • Pays the Part B premium for low-income seniors who qualify for Extra Help.
  • Makes Medicare coverage of mental health services more affordable by reducing the amount of co-insurance that seniors are responsible for, from 50% to 20%.
  • Eliminates co-insurance costs for preventive benefits.

Earlier this year TSCL submitted a Statement for the Record to the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Health that called on lawmakers to eliminate the asset test for low-income Medicare programs like Extra Help, saying “at the very least, asset limits should be increased so more low-income seniors would qualify.”  In addition, TSCL stated that Congress should make eligibility and enrollment requirements for Part B and Part D low-income programs the same, and that beneficiaries should be able to apply and be automatically found eligible for both at the same time.  Under current law eligibility requirements for both programs are different and beneficiaries must apply at different agencies.  The outcome of the Medicare provisions, however, remains uncertain.  The Senate passed a version of the legislation that contains no Medicare provisions, and President Bush has threatened to veto the final legislation.

Sources:  “Beach Reading,” Asclepios, Medicare Rights Center, August 2, 2007.  “Senate Approves Legislation To Expand SCHIP By $35B Over Five Years,” Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, August 3, 2007.