M4A offers Medicare help

Published 10:41 pm Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Middle Alabama Area Agency on Aging provides many services designed to enhance the lives of older individuals and people with disabilities, empower them to self-advocate, live independently and enjoy the highest quality of life.

The State Health Insurance Assistance Program is a program at M4A that helps answer questions about Medicare, Medicare Supplemental Insurance, Medicare Advantage Plans, Medicare prescription coverage and low-income assistance. SHIP provides free, unbiased information to help consumers make decisions regarding their health care benefits.

“We strive to help [Medicare beneficiaries] be wise consumers and to get the most value for their health insurance dollars,” said Ashley Lemsky, SHIP Coordinator at M4A.

Medicare is neither free nor cheap. Medicare premiums and cost sharing contribute greatly to out-of-pocket costs for Medicare beneficiaries. Consequently, some low-income beneficiaries avoid physician visits because of cost.

The state of Alabama has programs that can help Medicare beneficiaries pay for Medicare premiums and deductibles for low-income individuals. According to Lemsky, from September 2011 to June 2012, M4A’s SHIP assisted more than 560 low-income Medicare beneficiaries enroll in Medicare Savings Programs, amounting to over $1.5 million worth of benefits in the pockets of seniors and persons with disabilities.

Medicare Savings Programs are Medicaid-administered programs available to Medicare and Medicaid eligible beneficiaries with limited income and resources to help pay for their Medicare cost sharing. Medicare beneficiaries can save at least $100 every month through this extra-help available.

“The Medicare Savings Programs is one of the best kept secrets for Medicare beneficiaries,” said Lemsky. “Very few people know about the programs.”

Additionally, Medicare beneficiaries who qualify for the MSP’s are “deemed eligible” for Part D low-income subsidy (LIS)/Extra Help. This means that these individuals can receive help with their prescription costs. LIS helps to pay a portion of the drug plan’s monthly premium and other out-of-pocket expenses, such as the annual deductible and co-payments and co-insurance for covered drugs.

If you have limited income less than $1,246/individual or $1,675/couple you may be able to save money on Medicare premiums with one of the Medicare Savings Programs available. Each program has different qualification requirements. To get more information or to find out if you qualify, call SHIP at 1-800- AGELINE (800-243-5463).

The State Health Insurance Assistance Program is funded by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and is administered by the Alabama Department of Senior Services and the Area Agencies on Aging.