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Medicare Savings Program Income Limits


Are you a Medicare beneficiary, or soon-to-be Medicare eligible? If you’re also on a fixed income, you could qualify for financial assistance with the high cost of health care. A Medicare Savings Program (MSP) can help pay deductibles, coinsurance, and other expenses that Medicare usually doesn’t cover.

We’re here to help you understand the different types of MSPs. Below, we explain who is eligible for these programs and how to get the assistance you need to pay for your Medicare.

Types of Medicare Savings Programs

There are seven kinds of MSPs. Each type of MSP is tailored to different needs and circumstances.

  • Qualified Medicare Beneficiary (QMB) Programs pay most out-of-pocket costs for Medicare, protecting beneficiaries from cost-sharing. These programs offer full coverage of Part B premiums. Your Part A premium will also receive coverage if you haven’t worked 40 quarters. Deductibles, copays, and coinsurance receive coverage contingent on the state in which the beneficiary resides. Those who qualify for the QMB program are also automatically eligible for the Extra Help program for prescription drugs.
    • QMB Plus (QMB+) refers to those who receive full Medicaid benefits, as well as all the cost-sharing coverage QMB programs offer.
  • Specified Low-Income Medicare Beneficiary (SLMB) Programs pay your Part B premium. Like QMBs, those who qualify as SLMB are automatically eligible for Extra Help.
    • SLMB Plus (SLMB+) eligibility entitles beneficiaries to payment of their Part B premiums, plus full Medicaid benefits. Protection for cost-sharing varies by state.
  • Qualifying Individual (QI) Programs are also known as Additional Low-Income Medicare Beneficiary (ALMB) programs. Like the SLMB programs, they offer Part B premium payment. Yet, you can qualify with a higher income. Those who qualify are also automatically eligible for Extra Help.
  • Qualified Disabled and Working Individual (QDWI) Programs cover monthly Part A premiums for qualified individuals under 65 with disabilities who are currently working.
  • Full Benefit Dual-Eligible (FBDE) refers to those eligible for both Medicare and full Medicaid benefits. Depending on the state where they live, beneficiaries can receive up to the same, full cost-sharing protection as with QMB+.

State-Specific Name Conventions for MSPs

If you live in any of the following states, please note the differences in program names:

  • Alaska: QI is called SLMB Plus
  • Connecticut: QI is called ALMB
  • Maryland: QI is called SLMB II
  • North Carolina: QMB, SLMB, and QI are called MQB, MQB-B, and MBQ-E, respectively
  • Nebraska: Federal QMB is replaced with full Medicaid; SLMB and QI are both referred to as QMB
  • New Hampshire: QI is called SLMB-135
  • Oregon: SLMB and QI are called SMB and SMF respectively
  • Wisconsin: QI is called SLMB Plus

Who Qualifies for a Medicare Savings Program?

To qualify for an MSP, you first need to be eligible for Part A. For those who don’t qualify for full Medicaid benefits, your monthly income must also be below the limits in the following chart.

2021 Monthly Income Limits for Medicare Savings Programs
Medicare Savings Program Monthly Income Limits for Individual Monthly Income Limits for Married Couple
QMB $1,084 $1,457
SLMB $1,296 $1,744
QI $1,456 $1,960
QDWI $4,339 $5,833
*Please note: the above income limits are subject to change in 2021

In addition to the income limits, you must have limited resources to qualify for an MSP.

What Are Countable Resources for Medicare Savings Programs?

To qualify for the MSPs above, the dollar value of your countable resources must be below the limit for the type of assistance you’re looking to receive. See the chart below for the limit for each program.

2021 Resource Limits for Medicare Savings Programs
Medicare Savings Program Resource Limits for Individual Resource Limits for Married Couple
QMB $7,860 $11,800
SLMB $7,860 $11,800
QI $7,860 $11,800
QDWI $4,000 $6,000
*Please note: the above income limits are subject to change in 2021

The term countable resources means any money in bank accounts (checking or savings), stocks, and bonds. Your home, one car, a burial plot, up to $1,500 already saved for burial expenses, and personal belongings aren’t included when countable resources are considered.

How to Apply for a Medicare Savings Program

Visit Medicare.gov or call your local Medicaid office to determine if you’re eligible for an MSP in your state. You can also call 1-800-MEDICARE to ask about financial assistance with your Medicare premiums. They can also provide you with the phone number for the Medicaid office in your state, and you can determine whether you’re dual-eligible.

If your income and/or resources exceed those listed above, but you think you could still qualify, filling out an application is recommended. The limits are subject to increase each year.

When applying for an MSP, you’ll need documentation. The list of what’s needed varies by state, but you’ll want to make sure to furnish recent bank statements in order to substantiate your need for the program.

Medicare Savings Programs

How to Get Additional Medicare Coverage with Your Medicare Savings Program

If you qualify for a Medicare Savings Program and/or Extra Help, you'll save money on your out-of-pocket Medicare costs. To save even more, you can add supplemental coverage to your Medicare coverage.

Pairing a Medicare Advantage plan with your MSP is an excellent way to protect yourself from high medical bills because of a chronic condition or unexpected illness or accident. This can also give you additional benefits for an affordable price.

Also, those that qualify for a Medicare Savings Program may not be subject to a Part D or Part B penalty. Although, this depends on your level of extra help and the state you reside in.

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Lindsay Malzone

Lindsay Malzone is the Medicare expert for MedicareFAQ. She has been working in the Medicare industry since 2017. She is featured in many publications as well as writes regularly for other expert columns regarding Medicare. You can also find her over on our Medicare Channel on YouTube as well as contributing to our Medicare Community on Facebook.

46 thoughts on “Medicare Savings Program Income Limits

  1. Hi Lindsay Thank you for the transparent information. I live in PR and before deductibles receive 1,190 after I’m charged
    Medicare Part B it’s 1042. I signed up for Medicaid a few months ago and I was told it would cover Part B but my checks are still deducted. Is it because I receive too much before deductibles? I’m agoraphobic so it’s hard for me to leave my house to go to the post office to get mail on this or to talk to someone in person. Unfortunately since I moved here a year ago I haven’t been able to find any kind of social worker and would be grateful for any help! I want to call my insurance company but I’m not trying to have anything go wrong with what I’m already getting. Customer service and bureaucracy is difficult here. Thank you!

  2. I’m 75, I live in Illinois, I retired 2 months ago. I have Medicare part A, part B and Cigna Supplement insurance as Part G. Presently I’m applying for QMB Medicare Saving Program.
    Will QMB Medicare program work as Cigna supplement insurance covering medical expenses? Can I cancel Cigna because it costs me more than $170 a month? Thanks

  3. Hi, I’m confused and can’t seem to get a straight answer from our local medicaid office. My husband is on Medicare, I am not because I am not eligible for a few more years. But he qualifies for the MSP. The question is which one. Does he fall into the category for an “individual” or for “married couple”? Do I also have to be on Medicare for him to qualify for the income for “married couple” or is he considered “individual” because I’m not on Medicare? I have researched and asked time and time again, and nobody can tell me, but they still put him in the SLMB bracket when I believe as a married couple, he qualifies for the QMB. Also, I don’t see where it specifically states the spouse has to be on Medicare also. Please help. Thanks!!

    1. Hi Kim! The income category will be based on how you file your taxes. If you file jointly, then it will fall into the married couple category. I hope this helps!

  4. Hi Lindsay and thanks for this site! I live in Virginia and have full Medicaid since 1/2019 and am now considering enrolling in Medicare too because I turned 65 last February. Seems I missed the initial enrollment period and might have to pay a penalty on Part B premiums? I am low-income, self-employed and have yet to receive my first SSA retirement check. Which Medicare Plan would work best for someone in my situation? I think I might meet “Special Needs” Medicare Advantage criteria or possibly, a “Medicare Savings Program.” Do I even NEED Medicare if I already have Medicaid? If I enroll in both, am I “dual eligible?” So confusing! Thanks again.

    1. Hi Rosy! Any penalties you incurred will be eliminated if you’re eligible for Medicaid and enroll in a Medicare Savings Program. If you qualify for QMB, then yes you should enroll in Medicare since all our costs will be covered by Medicaid. Being dual-eligible for Medicare & Medicaid & enrolling in both is a better combination than Medicare Advantage alone.

  5. I’m curious about something: I qualify for and receive QMB on an SSDI income of $1440 in AZ – how is this possible being over 100% of the the poverty level?

    1. Hi Jim! This question would be better for your local Medicaid office, but there could be a Medicaid expansion available in your state.

  6. Hello, My mother receives SS of $987 per month and had been enrolled in QMB but it was recently denied. She has dementia which I’m not sure is counted as a disability. The rent at her facility is $2700. I pay a third from her account and my brother and I pay 2/3 directly to the facility. She has no other assets. But due to our contribution she was denied QMB but still somehow qualified for SLMB, with only approx $260 called supplementation and maintenance. I have been questioning this to understand but fear that if I question it too much they might deny her any MSP at all as long as we help her which isn’t always financially easy. I also can’t apply for any further benefits for her through Medicaid as long as any help we give to her is counted as income. If she later moves to a nursing home surely the amount we have had to pay to her current facility will no longer be ‘income’ as she will no longer live there, correct? So then she would qualify for Medicaid? I worry that if she needs hospital care that we will not be able to afford the co-pays or deductibles as she cannot qualify for QMB as long as we are currently helping her live where she does. Any advice much appreciated. Suzanne

  7. Hi I get $402 in SS and $490 in SSI and I am turning 65 in a couple of months. I am on Medicaid and they are switching me to Medicare. I also get food stamps. I am in NY. I read somewhere because I get SNAP benefits I automatically get enrolled in a MSP probably a QMB. Is that true?

    1. Hi William! You are probably dual-eligible for both Medicare & Medicaid. I’m not sure if you will automatically be enrolled or not, that’s possible! I would reach out to your local SHIP department. They are a free resource in each state and work for Medicaid and Medicare and help individuals like yourself understand your options.

  8. I’m wondering how income is counted for Medicare Savings Plans. I live in Wisconsin and receive 784 in SSDI. I currently receive QMB and I want to return to work. I will be making $10 per hour @ 15hrs a week. Can you tell me how income is calculated?

    1. Hi Ross! Your income is calculated off of your tax return. The following income is not counted:

      • The first $20 of your monthly income
      • The first $65 of your monthly wages
      • Half of your monthly wages after the $65 is deducted

      So, your monthly income that would count towards a Medicare Savings Program would be somewhere around $1,032.

    1. Hi Marsha! I don’t believe those numbers have been announced yet. We will update this page as soon as they are!

  9. My in-laws are green card holders and have been permanent residents for 5+ years. They have never worked or earned income in the U.S. They reside with us, but their full support is from my wife and me. Will they qualify for the Special Savings programs?

  10. Does the MSP program consider your monthly expenses (rent) when deciding on eligibility for MSP. I meet the monthly income requirements to be eligible, but I may be moving into my daughter’s home and will not be paying rent. Would I still be eligible?

    1. Hi Karen! MSPs are state-specific, I would contact your local Medicaid office to see how the change in what you pay for rent will impact your eligibility.

  11. Thank you for being the first person I found to truly explain this clearly. Unfortunately, my ‘countable’ income or assets puts me over as far as an msp. Watching one of your videos, looks like I’m between a rock and a hard place. I’ll be 65 in March. My choice? As a healthy individual, I either choose medigap and pay monthly premiums I cannot afford, hoping that one day I’ll be so sick I’ll be thankful, (although at death’s door), that my finances will be in good shape….OR pay nothing or little now for a medicare advantage plan and when I do get a little sick, I’ll be so poor from out of pocket expenses, trying to find doctors on the plan etc, that I’ll wish I was at death’s door. Am I close?
    Sorry to sound so cynical, but I don’t see much real positives in any of these plans unless you’re pretty rich or pretty poor.

    1. Hi Joe! Well, yes, you said it right. However, there are high-deductible Medigap plans you could consider. For those stuck in between a rock and a hard place, High Deductible Plan G may be your best option. The premium is significantly lower than the standard Plan G, and you still get all the benefits of a Medigap plan.

  12. A broker named Chris enrolled me into the United Healthcare Dual Complete plan. He said that because my monthly income is above $1,000 I will have to pay the 20% Part A & B copays. I have a notice from Washington State DSHS informing me that the Medicare Savings Program will pay for my $144 Part B monthly premium. I have another notice about having Level 1 coverage to the Extra Help plan for Part D. A friend who is an insurance broker says that I shouldn’t have to pay the 20% copay/coinsurances because my only income which is Social Security annually is under $16,971. Who is correct? Chris or my broker friend? Chris also had me end my Medicaid (Washington Apple Health), however United Healthcare states I need to have my Medicaid reinstated. Which is correct?

    1. Hi Michael. It sounds like you need to call Medicaid to get this sorted out. Each state is different, so your best option is to speak to your local Medicaid office. They will be able to give you a direct and honest answer. Unfortunately, it sounds like the broker you worked with may have been misinformed.

  13. Just turning 65, I’ve been strapped with Medicare Parts A and B and the “premium” deduction to pay Part B now leaves me with basic living expenses (rent and utilities) at 124% of my monthly income. My local (New York) Medicaid office is telling me that I qualify for QMB because 2020 “Income Requirements” (100%FPL + $20) is $1084/month and my Social Security (only income) is, before Medicare Part B deduction, $1077. My “assets” (one vehicle) total $1900. I have had to file 2 applications, on the advice of the local Medicaid office, because NY State denies “timely receipt” of applications. I have no cause to doubt the efficiency of my local office. I am seriously considering dropping Part B entirely but have been advised against that. I don’t currently have medical expenses as I’ve been blessed with good health but have been advised that applying for Part B at a later date will result in heavy “penalties”. Any advice as to how best to proceed with this?

    1. Hi Jude! Whoever advised you not to drop Part B due to being penalized is correct. If you drop Part B without having creditable coverage or qualify for a Special Election Period, you’ll be penalized 10% of the monthly premium per 12 months you went without coverage. So if you drop your Part B for 2 years, or 24 months, and choose to enroll again, you’ll have to pay 20% above the standard premium for as long as you have Part B. We just recorded a great video that goes over how the penalty works in depth. Once we update it, I’ll update this comment with the link to it. I hope this helps!

    1. Hi John! Unfortunately, it sounds like your income is above the limit. However, some states calculate income differently. I would give your local Social Security office a call to see if you qualify where you live.

  14. My only source of income is social security of $1427 per month. I have been a QI1 for years. Will I remain eligible for state payment of medicare premium in 2020? I have been disabled since 2005 with significant medical expenses.

    1. Hi Grace! Thank you for your question. It is possible that you no longer will qualify for QI. However, Social Security does sometimes make exceptions in cases like this. They could very well make an exception for you. The only place to find the answer to this is through Social Security. I would recommend giving them a call.

  15. Do the monthly income amounts account for any monthly expenses such as mortgage, cars, food, etc. to be deducted before looking at the income limit or is it the monthly income before any expenses are removed?

  16. The sooner Medicaid and other entitlements like SSDI, SSI, Section 8 housing, Welfare and Food Stamps are abolished the better! Abolish the ADA of 1990 and 70% of SSDI recipients will have to get off their lazy butts and get a job!

  17. So, I make $2 too much for QMB. I see about 7 or 8 different specialists. And I can’t afford this. I truly NEED QMB. What can I do to get this???

  18. C Stewart, It has nothing to do with who is on or why that person is on. It is simply based on what your total household income is and total assets. It has nothing to do with how you file your taxes. Your state will have access to all of that information regardless on how you file. Depending on your state you live in, there will be some wiggle room based on terminal illnesses and or disabling illnesses. In those cases you will need to get a qualified Dr to submit the proper paperwork with your state.

  19. Good evening I will be 65 in January and I am receiving my social security benefits plus I have Medicaid..My monthly benefits are 1047..will I automatically qualify and be enrolled in a Medicare Savings Plan..I live in Illinois..Thank you

    1. Hi Carol! The answer depends on the level of Medicaid. I would recommend reaching out to Social Security to verify the income level that you have is equivalent to what it has to be to get an MSP. It should happen automatically, however, we’ve seen it not sync up and the beneficiary has to apply manually. I hope this helps!

  20. WHAT IF YOU ARE MARRIED AND THE HOUSEHOLD IS 2 BUT ONLY ONE IS ON MEDICARE DUE TO DISABILITY, TERMINAL CANCER.. WHICH INCOME LIMIT WILL BE USED FOR QI1 QUALIFICATION: ( INDIVIDUAL) 1406 OR (COUPLE) 1903? THANKS.

  21. My husband and I are both disabled and both on Medicare, we also have a 4 year old but nothing on here shows income of a three income house, does this change?

    1. Hi Patricia! If I’m understanding your question correctly… having a dependent does not change your eligibility. If you and your husband make less than $1,430 monthly combined, with or without a dependent, you will qualify for an MSP.

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