April 1, 2012

USA: Help available for those with limited income

ANNAPOLIS, Maryland / HomeTownAnnapolis / Lifestyle / April 1, 2012

By AMY RUBINO, For Capital Gazette

I just discovered that my 88-year-old mother “dropped” her Medicare Part B. She could not afford the monthly premium of $99.90/month with an income of only $779/month. Her bank account is down to less than $100. She owns nothing — no home, no car, no savings. However, she cannot afford not go without medical insurance. I help her out as much as I can afford; she lives with me and I cover her living expenses. I am financially stretched to my limit. Are there any programs to help?
Your mother should apply for the Qualified Medicare Beneficiary/Specified Low-Income Medicare Beneficiary Programs; QMB/SLMB for short. The QMB/SLMB programs are for people who have Medicare but have limited income and assets.

The QMB program has an upper income limit of $951/month for a single person; $1,281/month for a married couple. The asset limit is $8,440 for a single person; $13,410 for a married couple. The QMB program does not disqualify a person for owning and living in their own home. Nor does the program disqualify a person for having a life insurance policy. The program also does not ask about the value of personal household possessions.

If approved for the QMB program, the state of Maryland will pay your mother’s Medicare Part B premium each month. Your mother would also be issued a gray and white Medical Assistance card that will supplement her Medicare insurance. If she receives the gray and white Medical Assistance card, have your mother confirm that her doctors accept both Medicare and Medical Assistance.

If a person’s income is above the QMB threshold, the application will then be processed for the SLMB program. The asset rules are the same for both the QMB and the SLMB programs. The SLMB program has a higher income threshold. The upper income limits for the SLMB program are $1,277/month for a single person and $1,723/month for a married couple. If approved for the SLMB program, no Medical Assistance card will be issued. Under the SLMB program, the state of Maryland pays the monthly Medicare Part B premium.

If approved for either the QMB or the SLMB program, your mother will be automatically re-enrolled into Part B. The state of Maryland will notify the Social Security Administration of her approval status. Once notified of her approval, Social Security will reinstate her Part B.

Amy Rubino is director of the Senior Health Insurance Assistance Program and the Senior Medicare Patrol for the Anne Arundel County Department of Aging & Disabilities. 
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