By: Brandy Bauer, NCOA’s Communications Manager, Economic Security. Originally published on our parent nonprofit ncoa.org.
You open your mail to find a letter saying you may be able to get help paying for the costs of Medicare. It appears to be from the Social Security Administration (SSA) …but is it for real? Here’s what you need to know.
Is this letter a scam?
No. Every year in May and June, SSA sends letters (example below and the full letters here) to people with Medicare who may be eligible for two money-saving programs that can help them afford their prescriptions and health care costs.
What are these money-saving programs?
- The Medicare Part D Extra Help program (also known as the Part D Low Income Subsidy, or LIS) helps pay your Part D drug plan premium and saves you money on medications at the pharmacy. If you qualify for Extra Help, you will pay no more than $8.35 for your prescriptions for each drug your plan covers.
- The Medicare Savings Program (MSP) pays your Part B premium each month. It also may help pay for other costs in Medicare, such as your Part B deductible and co-pays at the doctor’s office.
Why did I get this letter?
Social Security sent you this letter because you are enrolled in Medicare and, based on your monthly Social Security benefit, you appear to have an income that qualifies you for these programs.
Getting this letter does not mean you automatically qualify for these programs. You still need to fill out an application for each program.
Social Security does not have access to information about your other income and resources, such as any pension or retirement account you may have. If you apply for Extra Help or MSP, you will be asked for more information about your overall finances.
Where can I get help with an application?
To get in-person help with an Extra Help/MSP application:
- Contact your State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP). SHIPs are federally funded to provide free, objective assistance to people with Medicare and their families. Find your SHIP at www.SHIPTACenter.org or call toll-free 1- 877-839-2675.
- Find out if there’s a Benefits Enrollment Center (BEC) near you. BECs help people with Medicare apply for all the programs they may be missing out on. NCOA funds 59 BECs across 31 states.
- You can also apply for Extra Help online through BenefitsCheckUp® website.It’s free, confidential, and can screen you for thousands of other benefits programs at the same time.
How do I know if other letters I receive are a scam?
Scammers are known to pose as agents of the federal government. If you receive a letter from Social Security and are not sure if it is real or not, you can verify it by calling 1-800-772-1213. SSA also encourages people to set up an account at My Social Security to be able to check notices and your benefits at any time.