Savvy Senior: Assistance for Low-Income Seniors

by admin on June 30, 2011

Home Instead Senior Care sponsors Jim Miller's Savvy Senior column

Dear Savvy Senior,

What kinds of programs are available to help low-income seniors with their Medicare costs and other expenses? My 81-year-old mother has gone through her savings and is having a tough time getting by on her Social Security benefits. What can you tell us?

Worried Son

Dear Worried,

There are actually a variety of under-utilized programs that can help lower-income seniors with their Medicare costs, grocery bills, utility expenses and more. Here’s what you should know.

Medicare Savings Programs

For millions of seniors who are having a tough time paying their out-of-pocket healthcare costs, help is available through Medicare Savings Programs (MSPs). These are Medicaid-administered programs that pay Medicare Part B premiums and depending on your mom’s finances may even pick up the tab on her Medicare copayments and deductibles. To qualify, her income must be under $1,246 per month (or $1,675 for a married couple), and her assets must be below $6,680 ($10,020 per couple) not including her house, vehicle, burial fund, furniture or other household items. To find out if she qualifies, or to apply, contact her local Medicaid office – call 800-633-4227 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 800-633-4227 end_of_the_skype_highlighting for contact information.

Extra Drug Help

If your mom is eligible for a MSP, she’s also eligible for “Extra Help” in paying her Medicare prescription drug plan costs. If, however, she’s not eligible she can still get Extra Help if her annual income is below $16,335 ($22,065 for a married couple living together), and her cash assets are under $12,640 ($25,260 for married couples) excluding her home and vehicle. For more information, call Social Security at 800-772-1213 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 800-772-1213 end_of_the_skype_highlighting www.ssa.gov/prescriptionhelp.

Food Assistance

In addition to the Medicare programs, your mom may also be able to get some help with her grocery bills. Food assistance programs like SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) are available to seniors, age 60 and older, with cash assets under $3,000, and a “net income” below $903 per month ($1,215 for a family of two). Net income is figured by taking your mom’s gross income minus allowable deductions like medical expenses, rent or mortgage payments, utility costs, insurance, taxes and more. The average monthly SNAP benefit is currently around $101 per person. To find out if your mom qualifies, use the SNAP pre-screening tool at www.snap-step1.usda.gov or contact her local SNAP office – call 800-221-5689 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 800-221-5689 end_of_the_skype_highlighting

Utility Assistance

There are also resources available that can help low-income seniors reduce their utility bills. The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, as well as local utility companies and charitable organization help millions of Americans each year with their home heating and cooling costs. To search for help go to energynear.org, a web portal that provides information on all energy assistance programs in each state, along with qualification details, how to apply and who to contact. You can also call the National Energy Assistance Referral project at 866-674-6327 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 866-674-6327 end_of_the_skype_highlighting

Supplemental Income

Another program to check into is SSI or Supplemental Security Income. Administered by the Social Security Administration, SSI provides monthly payments to very low income seniors (age 65 and older), as well as to those who are blind and disabled. To learn more or find out if she’s eligible, visit www.ssa.gov/ssi or call 800-772-1213 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 800-772-1213 end_of_the_skype_highlighting

Savvy Tip: To search for other assistance programs go to benefitscheckup.org, a comprehensive web service developed by the National Council on Aging, that contains a database of more than 2,000 federal, state and local programs that can help seniors in need. The site will help you locate programs that your mom may be eligible for and will show you how to apply. This service is only available online.

Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit SavvySenior.org. Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy Senior” book.

Jim Miller, creator of the syndicated Savvy Senior column

About Jim Miller

Jim Miller is the creator of Savvy Senior, a syndicated information column for older Americans and their families that is published in more than 400 newspapers and magazines nationwide. Jim is also a contributor on NBC’s “Today” show, and is the author of The Savvy Senior, The Ultimate Guide to Health, Family and Finances for Senior Citizens, (Hyperion, 2004).

Jim is frequently quoted in articles about issues affecting senior citizens and has been featured in numerous high profile publications, including Time magazine, USA Today and The New York Times.  In addition, he has made multiple appearances on CNBC, CNN, Retirement Living Television and national public television.

The Savvy Senior column is brought to you by Home Instead Senior Care of Richmond and Tappahannock

Home Instead Senior Care provides extraordinary senior home care, personal care and companionship services to seniors in the Richmond area which includes the counties of Chesterfield, Goochland, Hanover, Henrico and Powhatan.  We also serve all of the Northern Neck out of our Tappahannock office.  For more information, please visit our digital brochure or call our office at 804.527.1100 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 804.527.1100 end_of_the_skype_highlighting anytime.

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