2004-11-19 / Community

Low Income Medicare Recipients Face Problems

A federal program that pays monthly premiums for low-income people with Medicare will expire on November 20 unless Congress moves swiftly to reauthorize the program.

“People with Medicare are facing the steepest increase in Medicare premiums starting on January 1,” said Robert M. Hayes, president of the Medicare Rights Center. “The Congressional leadership and the Bush Administration have pledged to protect this vitally needed program. But the clock is ticking.”

Beginning in January 2005, the Medicare Part B premium will increase 17.4 percent to $78.20 a month ($938.40 annually), up from this year’s monthly premium of $66.60.

About 156,000 older and disabled Americans, with incomes between 120 to 135 percent of the poverty level, and assets below $4,000 for an individual and $6,000 for a couple in most states, will lose their Medicare premium support if the Qualifying Individual-1 (QI-1) program is terminated. The QI-1 program is one of three Medicare Savings Programs that helps low-income people with Medicare lower their out-of-pocket health care expenses.

“There is broad concern that the federal government may drop this ball. If they drop the ball, many older and disabled Americans will be badly hurt,” Mr. Hayes said.

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