An elderly female hand holds a mock United States government Medicare Health Insurance card.

Medicare Savings Programs

What are the Medicare Savings Programs (MSPs)?

There are four different programs. QMB, SLMB and QI are called “buy-in programs” because they pay the Part B premium for people with limited incomes who otherwise might not be able to afford Medicare. QMB can also pay the Part A premium. QDWI pays only the Part A premium but not Part B premium.

They are a type of Medicaid, administered by the state Medi-Cal agency.

How Does One Apply?

  • Complete a paper application and submit it to the County Medi-Cal office. HICAP has applications and envelopes.

What are the Criteria for Qualifying?

  • Individuals must be eligible for, although not necessarily enrolled in Medicare. It’s possible to apply for Medicare via the Social Security Administration while also applying for the MSP program at the County.
  •  Asset limits for the MSPs are the same for all four MSPs ($130,000 single, $195,000 married). If monthly withdrawals of principal and interest are being taken, tax-qualified accounts (IRAs, 401Ks, etc.) are not counted as assets although the withdrawals are counted as income.
  • Income is gross income before the Part B premium is deducted from their social security check.
    • Note: A $20 “disregard” is subtracted from your monthly income (earned or unearned). The QDWI program also has an additional $65 disregard that applies when there is earned income.
  • Unlike the non-MAGI Medi-Cal programs, other health insurance such as dental, etc. cannot be used as a deduction. Therefore, in some cases, it may be easier to qualify for a non-MAGI Medi-Cal program which also pays the Part B premium (but not Part A).

Medicare Savings Programs income limits for 2022:

Program Income Limits
Qualified Medicare Beneficiary (QMB) $1,133 single; $1,526 couple
Specified Low Income Beneficiary (SLMB) $1,359 single; $1,831 couple
Qualified Individual (QI) $1,529 single; $2,060 couple
Qualified Disabled Working Individual (QDWI) $4,615 single; $6,274 couple

What are the Other Benefits?

  • All programs automatically provide full Low-Income Subsidies (LIS) for drug costs for the year.
  • Recipients can change drug or Medicare Advantage plans quarterly.

Qualified Medicare Beneficiary (QMB)

  • This program pays the Part A premium. It also pays the Part B premium and protects one from all Medicare Parts A and B deductibles and copays. Although it is against the law for providers to bill QMB recipients for Medicare deductibles and co-pays, it may be best to use providers who take both Medicare and Medi-Cal.
  • Allows immigrants and others with very low incomes who don’t qualify for free Part A to get it at no cost.
  • Someone can conditionally apply for Part A contingent upon being approved for QMB.
  • Those with Medi-Cal should still apply for QMB if they don’t get free Part A because only QMB, not Medi-Cal, pays the Part A premium.

Specified Low-Income Medicare Beneficiary (SLMB) & Qualifying Individual (QI)

  • Only pays Part B premium.
  • Does not pay for any other Part B coinsurance or for Part A. QI program allows a slightly higher income

Qualified Disabled Working Individual (QDWI)

  • Only pays Part A premium.
  • Does not pay for Part B premium or coinsurance.
  • Available to people who had Social Security and Medicare benefits because of a disability, but lost them because they returned to work and their earnings exceeded the allowable limit.

Not sure where to begin?

For an appointment, contact our Community Resource Specialists at (408) 350-3200, option 1.

For Medicare-related questions, complete the HICAP Interest Form.

This project was supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $97,279 with 100 percent funding by ACL/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.