Updated: 22 Feb, 2021
by Sarah Rakin (New York Legal Assistance Group)
Medicare Savings Programs (MSPs) pay for the monthly Medicare Part B premium for low-income Medicare beneficiaries and qualify enrollees for the "Extra Help" subsidy for Part D prescription drugs. There are three separate MSP programs, the Qualified Medicare Beneficiary (QMB) Program, the Specified Low Income Medicare Beneficiary (SLMB) Program and the Qualified Individual (QI) Program, each of which is discussed below. Those in QMB receive additional subsidies for Medicare costs.
See 2019 Fact Sheet on MSP in NYS by Medicare Rights Center ENGLISHSPANISH
State law: N.Y. Soc. Serv. L. § 367-a(3)(a), (b), and (d).
Since April 1, 2008, none of the three MSP programs have resource limits in New York -- which means many Medicare beneficiaries who might not qualify for Medicaid because of excess resources can qualify for an MSP.
Each of the three MSP programs has different income eligibility requirements and provides different benefits. The income limits are tied to the Federal Poverty Level (FPL).
2019 FPL levels were released by NYS DOH in GIS 20 MA/02 - 2020 Federal Poverty Levels -- Attachment II and have been posted by Medicaid.gov and the National Council on Aging and are in the chart below. NOTE: There is usually a lag in time of several weeks, or even months, from January 1st of each year until the new FPLs are release, and then before the new MSP income limits are officially implemented. During this lag period, local Medicaid offices should continue to use the previous year's FPLs AND count the person's Social Security benefit amount from the previous year - do NOT factor in the Social Security COLA (cost of living adjustment). Once the updated guidelines are released, districts will use the new FPLs and go ahead and factor in any COLA.
See 2019 Fact Sheet on MSP in NYS by Medicare Rights CenterENGLISHSPANISH
Income is determined by the same methodology as is used for determining in eligibility for SSI
(c) monthly cost of any health insurance premiums but NOT the Part B premium, since Medicaid will now pay this premium (may deduct Medigap supplemental policies, vision, dental, or long term care insurance premiums, and the Part D premium but only to the extent the premium exceeds the Extra Help benchmark amount)
As for all benefit programs based on financial need, it is usually advantageous to be considered a larger household, because the income limit is higher. The above chart shows that Households of TWO have a higher income limit than households of ONE. The MSP programs use the same rules as Medicaid does for the Disabled, Aged and Blind (DAB) which are borrowed from the SSI program for Medicaid recipients in the “SSI-related category.” Under these rules, a household can be only ONE or TWO. 18 NYCRR 360-4.2. See DAB Household Size Chart.
Married persons can sometimes be ONE or TWO depending on arcane rules, which can force a Medicare beneficiary to be limited to the income limit for ONE person even though his spouse who is under 65 and not disabled has no income, and is supported by the client applying for an MSP.
EXAMPLE: Bob's Social Security is $1300/month. He is age 67 and has Medicare. His wife, Nancy, is age 62 and is not disabled and does not work. Under the old rule, Bob was not eligible for an MSP because his income was above the Income limit for One, even though it was well under the Couple limit.
In 2010, NYS DOH modified its rules so that all married individuals will be considered a household size of TWO. DOH GIS 10 MA 10 Medicare Savings Program Household Size, June 4, 2010. This rule for household size is an exception to the rule applying SSI budgeting rules to the MSP program. Under these rules, Bob is now eligible for an MSP.
When is One Better than Two? Of course, there may be couples where the non-applying spouse's income is too high, and disqualifies the applying spouse from an MSP. In such cases, "spousal refusal" may be used SSL 366.3(a). (Link is to NYC HRA form, can be adapted for other counties).
1. Qualified Medicare Beneficiary (QMB). The QMB program provides the most comprehensive benefits. Available to those with incomes at or below 100% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL), the QMB program covers virtually all Medicare cost-sharing obligations: Part B premiums, Part A premiums, if there are any, and any and all deductibles and co-insurance. QMB coverage is not retroactive. The program’s benefits will begin the month after the month in which your client is found eligible.
** Even if you do not have Part A automatically, because you did not have enough wages, you may be able to enroll in the Part A Buy-In Program, in which people eligible for QMB who do not otherwise have Medicare Part A may enroll, with Medicaid paying the Part A premium (Materials by the Medicare Rights Center).
2. Specifiedl Low-Income Medicare Beneficiary (SLMB). For those with incomes between 100% and 120% FPL, the SLMB program will cover Part B premiums only. SLMB is retroactive, however, providing coverage for three months prior to the month of application, as long as your client was eligible during those months.
3. Qualified Individual (QI-1). For those with incomes between 120% and 135% FPL, and not receiving Medicaid, the QI-1 program will cover Medicare Part B premiums only. QI-1 is also retroactive, providing coverage for three months prior to the month of application, as long as your client was eligible during those months. However, QI-1 retroactive coverage can only be provided within the current calendar year. (GIS 07 MA 027) So if you apply in January, you get no retroactive coverage.
Q-I-1 recipients would be eligible for Medicaid with a spend-down, but if they want the Part B premium paid, they must choose between enrolling in QI-1 or Medicaid. They cannot be in both. It is their choice. DOH MRG p. 19. In contrast, one may receive Medicaid and either QMB or SLIMB.
All MSP recipients are automatically enrolled in Extra Help, the subsidy that makes Part D affordable. They have no Part D deductible or doughnut hole, the premium is subsidized, and they pay very low copayments. Once they are enrolled in Extra Help by virtue of enrollment in an MSP, they retain Extra Help for the entire calendar year, even if they lose MSP eligibility during that year.
The "Full" Extra Help subsidy has the same income limit as QI-1 - 135% FPL. However, many people may be eligible for QI-1 but not Extra Help because QI-1 and the other MSPs have no asset limit. People applying to the Social Security Administration for Extra Help might be rejected for this reason.
Recent (2009-10) changes to federal law called "MIPPA" requires the Social Security Administration (SSA) to share eligibility data with NYSDOH on all persons who apply for Extra Help/ the Low Income Subsidy. Data sent to NYSDOH from SSA will enable NYSDOH to open MSP cases on many clients. The effective date of the MSP application must be the same date as the Extra Help application. Signatures will not be required from clients. In cases where the SSA data is incomplete, NYSDOH will forward what is collected to the local district for completion of an MSP application. The State implementing procedures are in DOH 2010 ADM-03. Also see CMS "Dear State Medicaid Director" letter dated Feb. 18, 2010
Benefit 2. MSPs Automatically Waive Late Enrollment Penalties for Part B
Generally one must enroll in Part B within the strict enrollment periods after turning age 65 or after 24 months of Social Security Disability. An exception is if you or your spouse are still working and insured under an employer sponsored group health plan, or if you have End Stage Renal Disease, and other factors, see this from Medicare Rights Center. If you fail to enroll within those short periods, you might have to pay higher Part B premiums for life as a Late Enrollment Penalty (LEP). Also, you may only enroll in Part B during the Annual Enrollment Period from January 1 - March 31st each year, with Part B not effective until the following July. Enrollment in an MSP automatically eliminates such penalties... for life.. even if one later ceases to be eligible for the MSP. AND enrolling in an MSP will automatically result in becoming enrolled in Part B if you didn't already have it and only had Part A. See Medicare Rights Centerflyer.
Benefit 3. No Medicaid Lien on Estate to Recover MSP Benefits Paid
Generally speaking, states may place liens on the Estates of deceased Medicaid recipients to recover the cost of Medicaid services that were provided after the recipient reached the age of 55. Since 2002, states have not been allowed to recover the cost of Medicare premiums paid under MSPs. In 2010, Congress expanded protection for MSP benefits. Beginning on January 1, 2010, states may not place liens on the Estates of Medicaid recipients who died after January 1, 2010 to recover costs for co-insurance paid under the QMB MSP program for services rendered after January 1, 2010. The federal government made this change in order to eliminate barriers to enrollment in MSPs. See NYS DOH GIS 10-MA-008 - Medicare Savings Program Changes in Estate Recovery The GIS clarifies that a client who receives both QMB and full Medicaid is exempt from estate recovery for these Medicare cost-sharing expenses.
Benefit 4. SNAP (Food Stamp) benefits not reduced despite increased income from MSP - at least temporarily
Many people receive both SNAP (Food Stamp) benefits and MSP. Income for purposes of SNAP/Food Stamps is reduced by a deduction for medical expenses, which includes payment of the Part B premium. Since approval for an MSP means that the client no longer pays for the Part B premium, his/her SNAP/Food Stamps income goes up, so their SNAP/Food Stamps go down. Here are some protections:
Do these individuals have to report to their SNAP worker that their out of pocket medical costs have decreased? And will the household see a reduction in their SNAP benefits, since the decrease in medical expenses will increase their countable income?
The good news is that MSP households do NOT have to report the decrease in their medical expenses to the SNAP/Food Stamp office until their next SNAP/Food Stamp recertification. Even if they do report the change, or the local district finds out because the same worker is handling both the MSP and SNAP case, there should be no reduction in the household’s benefit until the next recertification. New York’s SNAP policy per administrative directive 02 ADM-07 is to “freeze” the deduction for medical expenses between certification periods. Increases in medical expenses can be budgeted at the household’s request, but NYS never decreases a household’s medical expense deduction until the next recertification. Most elderly and disabled households have 24-month SNAP certification periods.
Eventually, though, the decrease in medical expenses will need to be reported when the household recertifies for SNAP, and the household should expect to see a decrease in their monthly SNAP benefit. It is really important to stress that the loss in SNAP benefits is NOT dollar for dollar. A $100 decrease in out of pocket medical expenses would translate roughly into a $30 drop in SNAP benefits.
Clients receiving even $1.00 of Supplemental Security Income should be automatically enrolled into a Medicare Savings Program (most often QMB) under New York State’s Medicare Savings Program Buy-in Agreement with the federal government once they become eligible for Medicare. They should receive Medicare Parts A and B.
Clients who are already eligible for Medicare when they apply for Medicaid should be automatically assessed for MSP eligibility when they apply for Medicaid. (NYS DOH 2000-ADM-7 and GIS 05 MA 033).
Strategy TIP: Since the Extra Help filing date will be assigned to the MSP application, it may help the client to apply online for Extra Help with the SSA, even knowing that this application will be rejected because of excess assets or other reason. SSA processes these requests quickly, and it will be routed to the State for MSP processing. Since MSP applications take a while, at least the filing date will be retroactive.
Note: the above strategy does not work as well for QMB, because the effective date of QMB is the month after the month of application. As a result, the retroactive effective date of Extra Help will be the month after the failed Extra Help application for those with QMB rather than SLMB/QI-1.
Applying for MSP Directly with Local Medicaid Program. Those who do not have Medicaid already must apply for an MSP through their local social services district. (See more in Section D. below re those who already have Medicaid through the Affordable Care Act before they became eligible for Medicare.
If you are applying for MSP only (not also Medicaid), you can use the simplified MSP application form (theDOH-4328(Rev. 8/2017-- English) (2017 Spanish version not yet available). Either application form can be mailed in -- there is no interview requirement anymore for MSP or Medicaid. See 10 ADM-04.
Applicants will need to submit proof of income, a copy of their Medicare card (front & back), and proof of residency/address. See the application form for other instructions.
One who is only eligible for QI-1 because of higher income may ONLY apply for an MSP, not for Medicaid too. One may not receive Medicaid and QI-1 at the same time. If someone only eligible for QI-1 wants Medicaid, s/he may enroll in and deposit excess income into a pooled Supplemental Needs Trust, to bring her countable income down to the Medicaid level, which also qualifies him or her for SLIMB or QMB instead of QI-1.
Those who, prior to becoming enrolled in Medicare, had Medicaid through Affordable Care Act are eligible to have their Part B premiums paid by Medicaid (or the cost reimbursed) during the time it takes for them to transition to a Medicare Savings Program. In 2018, DOH clarified that reimbursement of the Part B premium will be made regardless of whether the individual is still in a Medicaid managed care (MMC) plan. GIS 18 MA/001 Medicaid Managed Care Transition for Enrollees Gaining Medicare (PDF)provides, "Due to efforts to transition individuals who gain Medicare eligibility and who require LTSS, individuals may not be disenrolled from MMC upon receipt of Medicare. To facilitate the transition and not disadvantage the recipient, the Medicaid program is approving reimbursement of Part B premiums for enrollees in MMC."
The procedure for getting the Part B premium paid is different for those whose Medicaid was administered by the NYS of Health Exchange (Marketplace), as opposed to their local social services district. The procedure is also different for those who obtain Medicare because they turn 65, as opposed to obtaining Medicare based on disability.
Either way, Medicaid recipients who transition onto Medicare should be automatically evaluated for MSP eligibility at their next Medicaid recertification. NYS DOH 2000-ADM-7 Individuals can also affirmatively ask to be enrolled in MSP in between recertification periods.
IF CLIENT HAD MEDICAID ON THE MARKETPLACE (NYS of Health Exchange) before obtaining Medicare:
IF they obtain Medicare because they turn age 65, they will receive a letter from their local district asking them to "renew" Medicaid through their local district. See 2014 LCM-02. Now, their Medicaid income limit will be lower than the MAGI limits ($842/ mo reduced from $1387/month) and they now will have an asset test. For this reason, some individuals may lose full Medicaid eligibility when they begin receiving Medicare. People over age 65 who obtain Medicare do NOT keep "Marketplace Medicaid" for 12 months (continuous eligibility) See GIS 15 MA/022 - Continuous Coverage for MAGI Individuals. Since MSP has NO ASSET limit. some individuals may be enrolled in the MSP even if they lose Medicaid, or if they now have a Medicaid spend-down.
If a Medicare/Medicaid recipient reports income that exceeds the Medicaid level, districts must evaluate the person’s eligibility for MSP. 08 OHIP/ADM-4
If you became eligible for Medicare based on disability and you are UNDER AGE 65, you are entitled to keep MAGI Medicaid for 12 months from the month it was last authorized, even if you now have income normally above the MAGI limit, and even though you now have Medicare. This is called Continuous Eligibility. EXAMPLE: Sam, age 60, was last authorized for Medicaid on the Marketplace in June 2016. He became enrolled in Medicare based on disability in August 2016, and started receiving Social Security in the same month (he won a hearing approving Social Security disability benefits retroactively, after first being denied disability). Even though his Social Security is too high, he can keep Medicaid for 12 months beginning June 2016.
Sam has to pay for his Part B premium - it is deducted from his Social Security check. He may call the Marketplace and request a refund. This will continue until the end of his 12 months of continues MAGI Medicaid eligibility. He will be reimbursed regardless of whether he is in a Medicaid managed care plan. See GIS 18 MA/001 Medicaid Managed Care Transition for Enrollees Gaining Medicare(PDF) When that ends, he will renew Medicaid and apply for MSP with his local district.
Individuals who are eligible for Medicaid with a spenddown can opt whether or not to receive MSP. (Medicaid Reference Guide (MRG) p. 19). Obtaining MSP may increase their spenddown.
MIPPA - Outreach by Social Security Administration -- Under MIPPA, the SSA sends a form letter to people who may be eligible for a Medicare Savings Program or Extra Help (Low Income Subsidy - LIS) that they may apply. The letters are:
Seniors WITHOUT MEDICARE PART A or B -- They may be able to enroll in the Part A Buy-In program, in which people eligible for QMB who are age 65+ who do not otherwise have Medicare Part A may enroll in Part A, with Medicaid paying the Part A premium.
See Step-by-Step Guide by the Medicare Rights Center). This guide explains the various steps in "conditionally enrolling" in Part A at the SSA office, which must be done before applying for QMB at the Medicaid office, which will then pay the Part A premium.
In June, 2018, the SSA revised the POMS manual procedures for the Part A Buy-In to to address inconsistencies and confusion in SSA field offices and help smooth the path for QMB enrollment. The procedures are in the POMS Section HI 00801.140 "Premium-Free Part A Enrollments for Qualified Medicare BenefiIaries." It includes important clarifications, such as:
SSA Field Offices should explain the QMB program and conditional enrollment process if an individual lacks premium-free Part A and appears to meet QMB requirements. SSA field offices can add notes to the “Remarks” section of the application and provide a screen shot to the individual so the individual can provide proof of conditional Part A enrollment when applying for QMB through the state Medicaid program.
Beneficiaries are allowed to complete the conditional application even if they owe Medicare premiums.
In Part A Buy-in states like NYS, SSA should process conditional applications on a rolling basis (without regard to enrollment periods), even if the application coincides with the General Enrollment Period. (The General Enrollment Period is from Jan 1 to March 31st every year, in which anyone eligible may enroll in Medicare Part A or Part B to be effective on July 1st).
QMB -No Retroactive Eligibility – Benefits begin the month after the month of the MSP application. 18 NYCRR § 360-7.8(b)(5)
SLIMB - YES - Retroactive Eligibility up to 3 months before the application, if was eligible This means applicant may be reimbursed for the 3 months of Part B benefits prior to the month of application.
QI-1 - YES up to 3 months but only in the same calendar year. No retroactive eligibility to the previous year.
7. QMBs -Special Rules on Cost-Sharing. QMB is the only MSP program which pays not only the Part B premium, but also the Medicare co-insurance. However, there are limitations. First, co-insurance will only be paid if the provide accepts Medicaid. Not all Medicare provides accept Medicaid. Second, under recent changes in New York law, Medicaid will not always pay the Medicare co-insurance, even to a Medicaid provider. But even if the provider does not accept Medicaid, or if Medicaid does not pay the full co-insurance, the provider is banned from "balance billing" the QMB beneficiary for the co-insurance. Click here for an article that explains all of these rules.
This article was authored by the Empire Justice Center.
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