The asset limit is $8,780 (single) or $13,930 (married couple). The asset definition includes funds in checking or savings accounts, stocks, bonds, mutual funds and Individual Retirement Accounts. Your home, car, life insurance policies and other miscellaneous items are not counted.
Partial help is available to enrollees with somewhat higher income and assets.
Determine your eligibility by calling the SSA’s toll-free line (800/772-1213) or apply online. Another key resource for assistance is your local State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP). These are federally funded nonprofits that provide free one-on-one Medicare counseling and assistance.
If you are eligible, you can enroll immediately in a Part D plan that participates in the Extra Help program through a Special Enrollment period, rather than wait until the annual fall Medicare plan enrollment window.
For seniors struggling to get by on very limited fixed incomes, programs such as this can provide very meaningful relief—and it is frustrating that the assistance is not getting to everyone who qualifies. But Extra Help is just the tip of the iceberg. A recent analysis from NCOA and the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging found that more than 4 million low-income seniors could increase their annual budget by up to 29% by taking advantage of benefit programs that help with everything from healthcare to food, utility payments and property tax relief.
(The opinions expressed here are those of the author, a columnist for Reuters.)