BOSTON — Gov. Charlie Baker wants to expand Medicare coverage for low-income seniors as part of his proposed spending plan for the next fiscal year.
The plan plans to expand the state’s Medicare savings program — which pays a portion of premiums and deductibles — to include people age 65 and older whose income does not exceed 200% of the poverty level. federal. The current state limit is 165% of the federal poverty level.
Baker administration officials said the plan would cost about $21 million and reduce health care spending and prescription drug costs for about 34,000 low-income seniors and residents with disabilities. Another 15,000 seniors currently enrolled in the program will receive additional assistance with their health care expenses.
Under the changes, which are subject to legislative approval, a 79-year-old Medicare beneficiary with $22,000 in Social Security income could see a drop in out-of-pocket health care costs from about $4,300 to $450 a year. year, according to Data provided by the Baker administration.
Leading advocates, who have pushed for the changes for years, hailed Baker’s willingness to expand the program and said it would help tens of thousands of elderly residents pay rising health care costs and prescription drugs.
“We have one of the biggest gaps between what it costs to live and meet basic needs and income for seniors,” said Mike Festa, state director for the Massachusetts chapter of the American Association of Retirees. “The economic security of seniors in our state is broad and important.”
Festa said the scheme’s expansion plan recognizes the financial stress many seniors face and “will bring real relief to those who need it most.”
By expanding eligibility for the program, the Baker administration says the state will allow more low-income older adults to automatically qualify for $200 million in Medicare Part D subsidies.
These grants will further reduce prescription drug costs for low-income seniors, according to the administration.
Carolyn Villers, executive director of the Massachusetts Senior Action Council, also praised Baker’s efforts to expand the program, but called on legislative leaders to go even further by raising eligibility to 225% of the federal poverty level and eliminating the state asset limits to qualify for the program.
“Rising costs due to the pandemic and sharp increases in Medicare spending have made it harder for many seniors living on fixed incomes to keep their heads above water,” she said.
“So we urge the Legislative Assembly to build on what the governor has proposed.”
Baker expanded Medicare eligibility in the previous budget, raising the limit from 135% to 165% of the federal poverty level.
His latest pitch to expand the program comes as many elderly Medicare beneficiaries dig deeper into their pockets to pay their premiums this year.
The US Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services says the standard monthly premium for enrollees in Medicare Part B, which covers outpatient care and other services, will be $170.10 this year, an increase of 14.5 % compared to 2021.
The annual deductible for all Medicare Part B beneficiaries will be $233 in 2022, an increase of $30 from last year, according to the federal agency.
Meanwhile, for Medicare Part A, which covers hospitals, hospice and inpatient rehabilitation, the 2022 deductible will be $1,556, up 4.85% from last year.
According to federal data, about 1.3 million Massachusetts residents have health insurance through Medicare programs.
Christian M. Wade covers the Massachusetts Statehouse for North of Boston Media Group newspapers and websites. Email him at [email protected]