Medicare coverage can get expensive, even though that may initially sound counterintuitive. Isn’t the federal government’s over-65 health care program supposed to help you pay your medical bills? The answer to that question is yes. But because of things like co-payments, co-insurance, premiums, and deductibles, medical care often remains very expensive even for people who qualify for Medicare – except Specified Low Income Medicare Beneficiary Program.

If you are having trouble affording your care, you might qualify for one of the federal government’s Medicare Savings Programs. One of the most common programs is called the Specified Low-Income Medicare Beneficiary Program (or SLMB for short). The SLMB program helps you pay for Original Medicare Part B premiums, and it may be available to you if you fall below certain federal- and state-mandated income levels. Medicare publishes a list of income and resource limits to help you figure out whether or not you qualify. The limits for 2016 are as follows.

How to qualify

If you are an individual and your monthly income is under $1,208, you may qualify. The married couple monthly income limit is $1,622. The individual resource limit is $7,280, while the married couple resource limit is $10,930. Resources are defined as money in a checking or savings account, stocks, bonds, mutual funds, or individual retirement accounts (IRAs). Medicare does not consider your home, your car, your furniture, your household items, or your burial plot (or even money set aside expressly for your burial plot) as resources against the limits.

The Specified Low-Income Medicare Beneficiary Program may be right for you if you are not approved for the Qualified Medicare Beneficiary Program, which is another Medicare Savings Plan for those with lower income. The SLMB allows you to have a bit higher income or asset total while still offering you help with your Original Medicare Part B premiums. It’s important to note that SLMB does not pay Medicare Part A premiums, nor does it pay other cost-sharing expenses like some of Medicare’s other Savings Plans. The chief benefit of the SLMB is the allowance for higher income.

If you qualify for the Specified Low-Income Medicare Beneficiary Program, you also automatically qualify for Medicare’s Extra Help program. This can reduce the cost of prescription medications that your doctor or specialist may recommend.

To qualify for the Specified Low-Income Medicare Beneficiary Program or other Medicare Savings Plans, you must answer “yes” to the following three questions:

  1. Do you have, or are you eligible for, Medicare Part A?
  2. Is your 2016 income at or below the limits listed above?
  3. Are your resources at or below the limits list above?

If you answered “yes” to all three questions, you should call your state’s Medicaid office and ask them if you qualify for a Medicare Savings Program. You may also call Medicare directly at 1-800-633-4227.