HELP LINE: There are programs to help save money

MONEY. I’M HOPING to get your attention.

How did I do?

Some of you with better long-term memories than mine (which is almost everybody), might be thinking, “Gee, that sounds familiar. I think he’s done that before.”

You’re right. I have done that before.

So, why am I doing it again?

Fair question.

The fair answer is that I’m doing this again because what I’m about to tell you represents two of the quickest and easiest ways I know of to genuinely help folks on Medicare, who are not “well to do,” so please read this, whether you find it interesting or not.

Because, if it doesn’t help you, it might help someone you know.

Let me ask you this: If you’re single, is your income at or below $1,386 per month?

If you’re married, is it at or below $1,872 per month?

Yes? OK.

If you’re single, are your assets at or below $7,560?

Don’t count the house, the car or your stuff, just money in the bank, stocks, bonds, other real estate, etc.

Yes?

If you’re a couple, are your assets at or below $11,340?

Yes?

Then you probably just got your Medicare Part B premium paid for, to the tune of $100 plus per month.

Yes, I’m serious.

There are three programs that are referred to as the Medicare Savings Programs.

They are known by weird acronyms, such as QMB (Qualified Medicare Beneficiary), SLMB (Specified Low-Income Medicare Beneficiary) and QI (Qualifying Individual).

I don’t care if you remember that, but I do care if you remember this: The last two will pay for your Part B premiums and the first one (QMB) also will pay your Part B deductibles, coinsurance and copayments.

We’re talking about paying for the heat here, right? Or food? Or medicine?

Now, try this: If your income and assets are at or below the figures above, you also qualify for Medicare Part D extra help (aka Low Income Subsidy).

Extra help covers all or part of Part D premiums, deductibles, some co-pays and provides coverage through the gap (aka donut hole).

As a matter of fact, your income and assets can be a bit higher than the figures above and still get some partial help with your Part D plan.

If you’re on Medicare and not comatose, you understand what I just said, more or less.

If you’re suddenly not paying for Part B premiums (and maybe more) and you’re reducing or eliminating your Part D premiums and deductibles and getting prescription drug coverage through the donut-hole, your household income just went up.

And if anybody is reading this and thinking “greedy geezer,” please do not email me about that, because I find that to be staggeringly idiotic and really don’t want to waste my time (or yours) arguing about it.

And for those of you who are Medicaid wonks, yes: The Medicare Savings Programs are a form of Medicaid, but they are specifically exempted from estate recovery, so relax.

By the way, everything I’ve just talked about is just as true (and available) in Indian Country, as it is anywhere else.

Please act on this, or cut this column out and stick it squarely in the face of somebody you care about, because there are thousands of us in these counties who qualify for these things and just don’t know it.

So, we just don’t do it, and then we struggle. And things often go downhill from there.

No, these won’t make you rich, but they will help — considerably — every day of every month.

What do you do?

Well, the easiest way (if you’ve got the equipment and the savvy) is to go to www.washingtonconnection.org/home/ to apply for the Medicare Savings Programs.

Usually, when you apply for those, the system will set you up with Part D extra help automatically.

Or you can go to the Social Security website (I know, but that’s how it works) to www.ssa.gov/benefits/medicare/prescriptionhelp/ to apply for extra help.

Or you can call any of the numbers at the end of this column and say any of the terms I’ve used here and decent people will know what you’re talking about and help you. For free.

That’s it. That’s all.

Please don’t be intimidated by or get hung up about (or hung up in) the bureaucracy or acronyms or whatever.

Who cares?

We’re talking about your life here.

And it will not help your kids (or anybody else) for you to do without, when you could do something about it and reduce some of the worry. Yours and theirs.

Just do it.

If you need help, call these numbers.

It’ll go well, I promise.

Help yourself. Please.

________

Mark Harvey is director of Clallam/Jefferson Senior Information & Assistance, which operates through the Olympic Area Agency on Aging. He is also a member of the Community Advocates for Rural Elders partnership. He can be reached at 360-452-3221 (Port Angeles-Sequim), 360-385-2552 (Jefferson County) or 360-374-9496 (West End), or by emailing harvemb@dshs.wa.gov.

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