Financial Peace of Mind: The Essentials of Enrolling in a Medicare Savings Plan

For millions of older adults, Medicare provides valuable health care coverage. However, it is not free – there are monthly premiums, plus deductibles and copayments when you receive services. These costs can add up, especially if you are living on a fixed income. The good news is that there are ways to help. Medicare Savings Plans MSP are a subset of Medicaid that can help pay for some, or even all, of your out-of-pocket Medicare costs. Here’s how they work:

Each MSP program has different benefits and eligibility guidelines. To qualify, you must be enrolled in Medicare Part A and meet your state’s income and asset limits. Assets include resources like real estate, mutual funds, checking and savings accounts, retirement accounts and investments. You must also submit an application each year, and your assets are reviewed to determine if you still qualify for the program.

Generally, MSP programs do not limit the number of times you can visit the doctor or hospital, but there are some exceptions. You can learn more about the types of services you can get and how often you can go to each provider by calling or visiting your local Medicare office.

In addition to providing assistance with premiums and cost-sharing, many MSP programs are also designed to protect you from high prescription drug prices. Enrollment in these programs automatically qualifies you for the Medicare Part D Low-Income Subsidy, or Extra Help, which helps pay your prescription drug costs. This is one of the most important ways that you can save on your healthcare costs.

You can learn more about how the MSPs work by reading the Medicare Benefit Policy Manual. You can also see which plans offer the MSPs in your area by visiting the Medicare Advantage Plans directory at .

The MSPs are administered by each Medicare Advantage Plan, and you can choose to join one. When you enroll, the Medicare Advantage Plan will give you a medical savings account MSA with a bank of its choice. Each year, the plan will deposit a certain amount of money into your MSA. If you join a Medicare MSA plan in the middle of a calendar year, the plan will deposit the full yearly amount into your account at the beginning of the first month that you are a member of the plan.

Some states may have rules that allow the plan to use some of the annual yearly deposit in the event you need more medical services than what is covered by your plan. The Center for Medicare Advocacy has a state-by-state compendium of the rules on this issue, available here: State Medicaid Payment Policies on Medicare Cost Sharing. You can also contact the Medicare MSA plan you want to join for more information. They will tell you how to set up your account with the bank they will use and when your coverage will start. Note that you can not join an MSA plan if you have other health insurance coverage, such as employer or union retiree plans or TRICARE.