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I Signed Up for Part B Late and Have a 30 Percent Penalty

If you can't afford your Medicare premiums, your state Medicare Savings Program may be able to help you.

Q. I signed up for Medicare Part B late and have a 30 percent penalty. Are there any programs or assistance to help me pay that premium? My only source of income is Social Security disability. I don’t qualify for Medicaid—tried twice. Any help?

A. You can apply for help from your state Medicare Savings Programs (MSPs). If you qualify for one of these programs, it will pay your Part B premiums, including the late penalty. Eligibility depends on your income and assets (e.g., savings), but the income limits are often higher than those for Medicaid, and some states don’t take assets into account at all. Many people who don’t qualify for Medicaid are able to get this assistance.

If your income is low enough, an MSP may also pay your other out-of-pocket costs in Medicare—including the Part A and Part B deductibles and copayments for medical services. Also, qualifying for help under an MSP makes you automatically eligible for low-cost prescription drug coverage under the Extra Help program in Part D.

To find out if you’re eligible for MSP help, call your state medical assistance office (Medicaid). For the office’s phone number, call Medicare at 1-800-633-4227 (TTY: 1-877-486-2048) or go online to www.medicare.gov and click on “Useful Phone Numbers and Websites” under “Help & Support” on the home page.

Patricia Barry is a senior editor at the AARP Bulletin.

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