Qualifying for Medicare Help from Your State

By Patricia Barry

Copyright © 2018 by AARP. All rights reserved.

What if you find it difficult to afford the most basic costs of Medicare, let alone extras like Medigap? You may qualify for at least one form of assistance from your state, as millions of others have done. Certainly you should consider applying — especially if you’ve reached the point of wondering whether to stop paying your premiums. You need to look at all the possibilities for keeping your coverage.

Many people who may qualify for state programs don’t actually apply, probably for a variety of reasons. But a major reason must be that many don’t realize the programs exist or don’t know how to apply. This section describes the assistance that’s out there. If you’re hurting financially, the following options are worth checking out:

  • Medicaid: Medicaid is a state-run program that supplements your Medicare coverage significantly and provides you with virtually free health care if you qualify.
  • Medicaid medical spend-down programs: If you don’t qualify for Medicaid outright, you may become eligible for it temporarily in some circumstances under spend-down programs.
  • Medicare Savings Programs: If you’re not eligible for Medicaid, you may qualify to at least have your Medicare premiums paid for through one of the Medicare Savings Programs (MSPs).
  • A PACE plan: Programs of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) are an especially valuable service for people with low incomes and poor health, but they aren’t available everywhere.
  • State Pharmacy Assistance Programs: These programs (abbreviated SPAPs) help people afford prescription drugs.