Medicare Savings Programs: Reduce Costs on Medicare

Medicare Savings Programs (MSPs) can help you pay Medicare's monthly cost and your health expenses if you have a low income and limited resources.

Eligibility varies by state, but you'll usually qualify for Medicare Savings Programs if you earn less than $20,580 a year and have less than $9,430 in savings. If you have Medicare because of a disability, you can qualify if you earn up to $61,260 per year.

What are Medicare Savings Programs?

Medicare Savings Programs can lower or eliminate the cost of Original Medicare (Parts A and B) and medical care if you have a low income. Your benefits won't change when you're enrolled. You'll just pay less.

Where you live determines what’s covered and who's eligible. Most states use a combination of both income and assets to determine eligibility. You can enroll in a Medicare Savings Program even if you have Medicaid.

What is the income limit for the Medicare Savings Program?

Most people will qualify for a Medicare Savings Program if they earn less than $20,580 a year, or $1,715 per month.

Those with disabilities can earn up to $61,260 per year, $5,105 per month and still qualify.

Individual eligibility

Couple eligibility

Medicare Savings Program
Monthly income limit
Resource limit
Qualified Medicare Beneficiary (QMB) $1,275$9,430
Specified Low-Income Medicare Beneficiary (SLMB) $1,526$9,430
Qualifying Individual (QI) $1,715$9,430
Qualified Disabled Working Individual (QDWI) $5,105$4,000

Monthly income and resource limits in most states for 2024. Limits are slightly higher in Alaska and Hawaii.

Individual eligibility

Medicare Savings Program
Monthly income limit
Resource limit
Qualified Medicare Beneficiary (QMB) $1,275$9,430
Specified Low-Income Medicare Beneficiary (SLMB) $1,526$9,430
Qualifying Individual (QI) $1,715$9,430
Qualified Disabled Working Individual (QDWI) $5,105$4,000

Monthly income and resource limits in most states for 2024. Limits are slightly higher in Alaska and Hawaii.

Couple eligibility

Medicare Savings Program
Monthly income limit
Resource limit
Qualified Medicare Beneficiary (QMB) $1,724$14,130
Specified Low-Income Medicare Beneficiary (SLMB) $2,064$14,130
Qualifying Individual (QI) $2,320$14,130
Qualified Disabled Working Individual (QDWI) $6,899$6,000

Monthly income and resource limits in most states for 2023. Limits are slightly higher in Alaska and Hawaii.

If you're still working, only about half your wages count towards the Medicare Savings Program income limit. But the program counts the full amount of your Social Security benefits and retirement account withdrawals.

The Qualified Medicare Beneficiary (QMB) Program pays for most of your expenses, but it's the hardest to qualify for.

  • In 2024, the QMB income limit is $15,300 per year for an individual and $20,688 per year for a couple.
  • The SLMB income limit for an individual is $18,312 per year and $24,768 for a couple.

Where you live can change the Medicare Savings Programs' eligibility rules

Medicare Savings Programs are managed by state Medicaid agencies, which sometimes make it easier to qualify because they increase the limit on income and resources. That means you can still qualify if you earn more or have more savings. However, states can't make it more difficult to qualify.

  • Higher income limits make it easier to qualify in:
    • Alaska
    • Connecticut
    • Hawaii
    • Indiana
    • Maine
    • Massachusetts
    • Washington, D.C.
  • Asset limits are not used in:
    • Alabama
    • Arizona
    • Connecticut
    • Delaware
    • Louisiana
    • Mississippi
    • New Mexico
    • New York
    • Oregon
    • Vermont
    • Washington
    • Washington, D.C.
  • Asset limits are higher than federal standards in:
    • California
    • Maine
    • Massachusetts
    • Minnesota

For example, the Medicare Savings Program in New York has an income requirement of $20,580 or less per year. But there isn’t a limit on how much you can have in savings.

In contrast, the Medicare Savings Program in Florida follows the national standards. That means that individuals will qualify with an income less than $20,580 a year and having less than $9,430 in savings.

How to see if you qualify for the Medicare Savings Programs

The Medicare Savings Program looks at income such as wages, Social Security benefits, and unemployment. Its limits don't include any government assistance income such as SNAP.

What's counts as income

What doesn't count as income

  • Half your monthly wages, after the first $65
  • Social Security benefits
  • Pensions, retirement accounts and annuity income
  • Unemployment income
  • Net earnings from self-employment, after your expenses
  • Royalties

What's counts as income

  • Half your monthly wages, after the first $65
  • Social Security benefits
  • Pensions, retirement accounts and annuity income
  • Unemployment income
  • Net earnings from self-employment, after your expenses
  • Royalties

What doesn't count as income

  • The first $20 of your monthly income
  • The first $65 of your earned monthly wages and half of your monthly wages after the first $65
  • Interest and dividends
  • Assistance programs for those with low incomes including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), housing and home energy

Income calculations for Medicare Savings Programs typically use the same guidelines as the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program. Also, check with your state Medicaid office when filing your application because your state may use different rules.

In states where there are asset requirements, the Medicare Savings Programs will count any money you have in the bank, investments, retirement accounts, and second home values. But your main home, car, or belongings don't count as resources.

What's included as a resource

What's excluded from your resources

  • Cash
  • Money in checking or savings accounts
  • Retirement accounts
  • Stocks, bonds, mutual funds
  • Second homes or real estate holdings

What's included as a resource

  • Cash
  • Money in checking or savings accounts
  • Retirement accounts
  • Stocks, bonds, mutual funds
  • Second homes or real estate holdings

What's excluded from your resources

  • Primary residence
  • One car
  • Personal possessions such as household goods
  • Jewelry such as wedding or engagement rings
  • Burial spaces and burial funds amounting to $1,500 per person
  • Life insurance policy with a cash value up to $1,500 per person

In addition to meeting the income and resource requirements, you must be enrolled in or qualified for Medicare to be eligible for a Medicare Savings Program. You also must reside in one of the 50 states or Washington, D.C. Medicare Savings Programs are not available in Puerto Rico or the Virgin Islands.

Program details by state

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Go ahead and apply

If you are struggling to pay your Medicare expenses, apply to the Medicare Savings Programs to see if you might qualify. Even if you're not eligible based on the federal standards, you may still qualify in your state because of different requirements and calculation methods.

What do the Medicare Savings Programs pay for?

Medicare Savings Programs can help pay for the monthly cost of Medicare Parts A and B and sometimes medical costs.

Program
Part A
Part B
Medical care
Qualified Medicare Beneficiary (QMB)
(if applicable)
Specified Low-Income Medicare Beneficiary (SLMB)Usually free
Qualifying Individual (QI)Usually free
Qualified Disabled Working Individual (QDWI)
(if applicable)

The QMB program will eliminate most of your costs by paying for Medicare Part A, Part B and medical care.

SLMB and QI Medicare Savings Program both pay for the monthly cost of Medicare Part B which is $174.70 per month for 2024. It's easier to qualify for the QI program than SLMB, but you'll have to reapply each year.

About the 4 Medicare Savings Programs

The four Medicare Savings Programs are Qualified Medicare Beneficiary (QMB), Specified Low-Income Medicare Beneficiary (SLMB), Qualifying Individual (QI) and Qualified Disabled Working Individual (QDWI).

For seniors, Qualifying Individual is the easiest to qualify for because of its high-income limits. Qualified Disabled Working Individual is only available to those enrolled in Medicare because of a disability or health condition.

The Qualified Medicare Beneficiary (QMB) program helps pay for:

  • The monthly cost of Medicare Part A if you're one of the few people who are not otherwise eligible for free Medicare Part A
  • The monthly cost of Medicare Part B, which is $174.70 per month for 2024
  • Medical costs for doctor appointments, hospital stays, testing and treatment, including deductibles, copayments and coinsurance for Medicare Parts A and B

Typically, you can qualify for the Qualified Medicare Beneficiary program with a yearly income of $15,300 or less and assets of $9,430 or less. Married couples can qualify with incomes of $20,688 or less and resources up to $14,130 in most states.

If you are enrolled in a QMB program, you may have to pay a minimal copay when you receive medical care. This bill will come from Medicaid (not Medicare) because Medicaid administers the savings programs.

The Specified Low-Income Medicare Beneficiary (SLMB) program helps pay for:

  • Monthly cost of Medicare Part B, which is $174.70 per month for 2024

In most states, you can qualify for the SLMB program with an income of $18,312 or less per year and assets of $9,430 or less. Married couples can qualify if they earn up to $24,768 with assets not exceeding $14,130. You must be enrolled in both Medicare Part A and Part B to qualify.

The Qualifying Individual (QI) program helps pay for:

  • Monthly cost of Medicare Part B, which is $174.70 per month for 2024

QI has a slightly higher qualifying income limit than the QMB and SLMB programs. You cannot qualify for this program if you are enrolled in Medicaid.

In most states, you can qualify if your income does not exceed $20,580 a year with assets at or below $9,430. Married couples can qualify in most states with incomes that do not exceed $26,868 a year and assets at or below $13,630.

You must apply every year for the program. States approve applications on a first-come, first-served basis, and they give priority to people who received QI benefits the previous year.

The Qualified Disabled Working Individual (QDWI) program helps pay for:

  • The monthly cost of Medicare Part A for people with disabilities who returned to work and, as a result, lost their free Medicare Part A and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)

To qualify for this program, you must have Medicare while being under the age of 65 and actively employed while having a disability.

You also need to meet the financial requirements, which in most states means an individual needs to earn $61,260 per year or less and have assets of $4,000 or less. Married couples can qualify in most states with yearly incomes of $82,788 annually and assets of $6,000 or less.

How to apply for a Medicare Savings Program

You can apply for the Medicare Savings Programs at the same time you apply for Medicare or anytime you’re enrolled in Medicare. But the application is separate from your Medicare application.

About 16% of all Medicare enrollees participate in the Medicare Savings Programs. However, only about half of the people who are eligible are enrolled, so many people who qualify are not getting financial help.

Apply for the Medicare Savings Programs through your state’s Medicaid agency. You can usually submit your application online, over the phone or by mail.

It can take a few months before you are deemed eligible for one of the savings programs and actually receive benefits. The benefits should apply retroactively from the time you actually qualified.

Medicare or Medicaid may tell you to apply for the Medicare Savings Programs if they think you may be eligible. But you may still qualify even if you're not notified that you should apply.

Extra Help program for prescription drugs If you qualify for one of the Medicare Savings Programs, you automatically qualify for full benefits under the Medicare Extra Help program, which reduces the cost of prescription drugs and Medicare Part D prescription insurance.

If you don't automatically qualify for Extra Help, you can apply through the Social Security Administration.

Frequently asked questions

What does the Medicare Savings Program pay for?

The Medicare Savings Programs help pay for Medicare-related costs, including the monthly cost of Original Medicare and medical expenses. You can qualify if you are enrolled in Medicare, have a low income and have limited resources.

What is the income limit for the Medicare Savings Program?

Most individuals qualify for one of the Medicare Savings Programs if they earn less than $20,580 a year. Those who have disabilities can qualify with incomes up to $61,260 a year. However, requirements can vary widely between states.

What’s the difference between QMB and SLMB?

Between these two Medicare Savings Programs, Qualified Medicare Beneficiary (QMB) has lower income limits than Specified Low-Income Medicare Beneficiary (SLMB), making it harder to qualify. But QMB has better benefits, covering nearly all costs for the Medicare program and medical care.

Does Social Security count as income for QMB?

Yes, Social Security is considered income. If your monthly Social Security check exceeds $1,275 a month for an individual, you will not qualify for the Qualified Medicare Beneficiary (QMB) program in most states.

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