Javascript is not enabled.

Javascript must be enabled to use this site. Please enable Javascript in your browser and try again.

Skip to content
Content starts here
Leaving Website

You are now leaving and going to a website that is not operated by AARP. A different privacy policy and terms of service will apply.

Can I get help to pay for my prescription drugs if my income is low?

Yes. The Extra Help program can help people with limited resources and income pay premiums and out-of-pocket costs for Medicare Part D prescription coverage.

Medicare doesn’t automatically cover prescription drugs though you can get a Part D policy from a private insurer that helps with these expenses. But stand-alone Part D policies still have some costs, including premiums that average $31.50 a month in 2023, deductibles at $505 or less annually in 2023 and copayments or coinsurance for your medications.

spinner image Image Alt Attribute

AARP Membership

Join AARP for $12 for your first year when you sign up for Automatic Renewal. Get instant access to members-only products and hundreds of discounts, a free second membership, and a subscription to AARP The Magazine

Join Now

If you qualify, the Extra Help program, also called the Part D low-income subsidy, can reduce these out-of-pocket expenses. Depending on your income, it may eliminate them.

The Social Security Administration, which runs the Extra Help program with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, estimates that the program can reduce prescription drug expenses for low-income beneficiaries by an estimated $5,300 a year.

Who qualifies for Extra Help with Part D premiums?

Some qualify automatically. If you receive full Medicaid coverage, get Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or have your Medicare premiums paid through a state program, Medicare will send you a letter confirming that you’re eligible for Extra Help and don’t need to apply.

Others can apply. If your assets and income are low enough, you can qualify for full or partial Extra Help. The limits change each year.

  • Your assets — savings, investments and real estate, not counting the home you live in — must be worth $33,240 or less in 2023 if you’re married and living with your spouse. If you’re not married or not living with your spouse, the amount is $16,660 or less.

You don’t need to include these items in your calculations: your home, burial plots, irrevocable burial contracts, life insurance, personal possessions, vehicles or certain back payments from Social Security or SSI.

  • Your income must be less than $29,820 for a married couple living together and $22,116 for an individual. Income includes money you receive from Railroad Retirement, Social Security and Veterans Affairs benefits; net earnings from self-employment; other pensions; rental income; wages; and some other kinds of income.

You can apply for Extra Help through the Social Security Administration, which also handles Medicare enrollment. There are three options: fill in the forms on the SSA website, call Social Security (800-772-1213) or schedule an appointment at your local Social Security office.

What does Extra Help cover?

The program has different levels of help, depending on the amount of your income and assets and whether you qualify for Medicaid or a Medicare Savings Program. The latter program can help Medicare beneficiaries who have few resources pay premiums and out-of-pocket costs for both parts A and B of Medicare.

Medicare will send you a notice letting you know what level of Extra Help you qualify for.

If you receive Medicaid benefits or are eligible for a Medicare Savings Program, you qualify automatically for Extra Help. Eligibility varies by state.

  • You will pay no premium or deductible for Medicare Part D drug coverage.
  • Your copayments will be no more than $4.15 for generic drugs and $10.35 for brand-name drugs in 2023. If you receive Medicaid and your income is lower, $19,956 as a married person living with your spouse or $14,820 if single, the copayments are further reduced to $1.45 for generics and $4.30 for brand-name drugs.
  • You’ll have no copays for your medications after you’ve paid $7,400 in out-of-pocket drug costs for 2023, which brings you to the Part D catastrophic level.
See more Health & Wellness offers >

You can qualify for full Extra Help benefits without being part of Medicaid or a Medicare Savings Program if you’re married and have income less than $26,868 and assets less than $16,630 or single with income less than $19,920 and assets less than $10,590 in 2023.

  • You’ll pay no premium or deductible for Part D.
  • Your copayments will be no more than $4.15 for generics and $10.35 for brand-name drugs.
  • You’ll have no copays for your medications after you’ve paid $7,400 in out-of-pocket drug costs for 2023.

You may qualify for partial Extra Help if your income is slightly higher, up to $29,820 in income and $33,240 in assets if married and up to $22,116 in income and $16,660 in assets if single in 2023.

  • Your premiums will vary based on income.
  • Your deductible will be no more than $104.
  • Your coinsurance — your share of the cost of your medications — will be no more than 15 percent of the price. When you reach that Part D catastrophic level, you will pay no more than $4.15 for generics and $10.35 for brand-name drugs or 5 percent of the drug’s cost, whichever is greater.

Keep in mind

You still have more to do. Qualifying for Extra Help, even automatically, is only one step of the process. You still must enroll in a Part D plan to get your prescriptions covered.

If you don’t choose a plan, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) will choose one for you.

CMS will send you a letter to let you know what plan you’ve been enrolled in and how to change plans if the one selected for you doesn’t cover your drugs or your preferred pharmacy. You can use the Medicare Plan Finder to compare coverage for plans in your area.

No time limits. You can apply for Extra Help anytime. If you qualify, you can switch Part D plans as often as once each calendar quarter during the first three quarters of the year.

You can also change plans during open enrollment from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7. Part D plans can change their costs and coverage each year, so it’s a good idea to compare your options at least annually.

More people will qualify in 2024. Income limits to qualify for full Extra Help will increase in 2024, thanks to the Inflation Reduction Act, signed into law Aug. 16, 2022. Those who meet present income caps for partial Extra Help will receive full benefits.

Need more help? Your State Health Insurance Assistance Program can assist you in applying for Extra Help or choosing a Part D plan.

Return to Medicare Q&A main page

Members Only Access. Log in to continue.

Gain access to celebrity interviews, smart advice, recipes, novels, Pilates, and AARP digital magazines. With content arriving every day, there is always something new and exciting to discover with AARP Members Only Access.


Not a member?