Charlie Baker proposes Medicare eligibility expansion for low-income seniors

BOSTON, MA – JANUARY 15: Gov. Charlie Baker speaks during a news conference announcing Cathy M. Judd-Stein as the new chair of the Gaming Commission at the State House on January 15, 2019 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Staff Photo By Angela Rowlings/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)


Gov. Charlie Baker is proposing to expand the eligibility for Medicare Savings Programs to allow more low-income seniors to qualify.

In his annual budget submissions, Baker is including the proposal to spend $7 million every year to leverage more than $100 million in federal funds for Medicare prescription drug subsidies for eligible seniors over 65.

Expanding the program would bring the number of eligible low-income seniors from 18,000 to around 43,000. Most of the current folks in the program would receive better benefits, and approximately 25,000 people who aren’t now eligible would become so.

The Medicare Savings Programs pay for Medicare premiums and out-of-pocket expenses for low-income eligible seniors. Currently, one in three low-income seniors in the state spend less than 20 percent of their income on health care.

The proposed expansion would raise the income eligibility for the program from the current levels of 100-135 percent of the federal poverty level, which includes people who make between $12,140 to $16,400, to 130-165 percent, which includes people who make under $20,000.

“This will make a big difference to a lot of people whose out-of-pocket on their drug cost is high,” Baker said.

The state will have to pay $7 million annually, and $4 million in FY20, for the state’s share of the costs for Medicare Parts A and B premiums and cost-sharing, which cover hospital and general medical services. The seniors also automatically qualify for subsidies for drug coverage under Medicare Part D, which is fully paid for by the federal government.

This is the first time that Massachusetts will have adjusted eligibility beyond federal standards since the MSP program’s inception in 1966. At least 13 other states have expanded their eligibility above the federal minimums as well.

Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh expressed his support for the proposal in a statement Friday.

“Expanding eligibility for the Medicare Savings Programs is a significant way to ensure that our seniors have access to high-quality and affordable health care coverage,” Walsh said. “Reducing out-of-pocket costs for low-income elders aligns with the City of Boston’s efforts to expand access to affordable health care. I look forward to working with the administration, Legislature and advocates to move this important priority forward to help thousands of people across the Commonwealth pay for their health care.”


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Back to top
%d bloggers like this: