Program means extra money for low income seniors

Eileen DohertySylvia Hernandez is on a mission.  Motivated by her own tough times, she’s determined to help others who may find themselves struggling to make ends meet.  The 67-year-old is reaping the benefits as a low income Medicare benefit that thousands like her have no idea exists.  So Sylvia is doing what she can to raise awareness about Colorado Medicare Savings Program and Low Income Subsidy.   Qualified participants can get help paying for premiums, deductibles and co-insurance.

“We know there are people who can use the help,” said Hernandez.  “I understand they are scared.   I was! I was living on the edge, worried one emergency would really take a toll.”

The Colorado Gerontological Society is behind the effort to get more low income seniors registered for the program.  It’s based on income so registrants have to share personal documents like bank statements.   Supported by a grant from the Colorado Health Foundation and Caring for Colorado Foundation, as well as the Latino Age Wave, the program hopes to register more than 3500 seniors within the year.

Sylvia lives in Wheat Ridge and volunteers at the one of the Community Application Assistance Sites helping get more seniors signed up.   But she also uses word of mouth Ð wherever she goes, mostly to her own neighbors.   The assistance sites are located at the Seniors Resource Center of Southwest Plaza, Allied Senior Housing, Senior Hub, Martinez Family Dentistry, and Entra.  The Brunner Clinic at Saint Joseph Hospital and Dominican Sisters of Colorado limit their assistance to their clients.

Three parts to the program

The Medicare Savings Program has three components:  the Qualified Medicare Benefit, the Special Low Income Medicare Benefit and the Qualifying Individual.   Each program has different income and resource requirements but all have the same goal Ð helping those who are eligible get help with medical expenses.  Income from all sources must be less than $1313 per month for a single person and$1765 for a couple.

Resources that must be counted for all of the programs include cash, savings, stocks, bonds, IRAs and other similar assets. Resources must be less than $8,580 for a single person and $13,300 for a  couple.  Resources that are exempt include personal residences, one car, term life insurance and irrevocable burial policy.

“Lack of awareness is our greatest obstacle,” said Eileen Doherty, executive director of the Colorado Gerontological Society. “This program is about money. Money that can help pay the bill Ð whatever the bill is.”

Signing up is easy
The easiest way to sign up for the Medicare Savings Program is through the PEAK application online system and the prescription drug benefit through the Social Security Administration online application.   If you need assistance with applying for these programs, call 1-866-293-6911.   Volunteers are able to assist with in-person appointments or phone appointments.

For Sylvia, the program means an extra $104 in her pocket each month.

“The program gives me peace of mind,” said Hernandez. “I know I have a little extra each month.  It’s money for food.”

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