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COLUMN: Saving money on Medicare in 2023

William C. Lane, Ph.D., Special to the Daily Sentinel
Posted 12/26/22

Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period for 2023. While the annual Fall Open Enrollment Period has ended, we have now entered the winter Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period.

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COLUMN: Saving money on Medicare in 2023


Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period for 2023. While the annual Fall Open Enrollment Period has ended, we have now entered the winter Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period.

This period runs from Jan. 1 through March 31 each year. During this period, you can change from one Medicare Advantage plan to another or leave your current Advantage plan and enroll in Original Medicare with a Part D drug plan. However, during this period you cannot switch from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan.

As outlined in last month’s article there are also Special Enrollment Periods that allow you to make changes to your coverage due to circumstances that are beyond your control. For example, if you move and your current plan is no longer available in your new area, you can enroll in another Advantage plan or return to Original Medicare with a Part D plan. Remember, if you have any problems with your coverage during the year HIICAP counselors are available to assist you. HIICAP is a year-around program.

Social Security Benefits Increase in 2023. Although we are suffering from the costs of high inflation, there is some very good news if you receive Social Security benefits or are covered by Medicare. First, starting this month all Social Security recipients will receive a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) in the amount of 8.7 percent. For the average beneficiary this will mean an increase of about $140 per month and represents the largest COLA increase since 1981. At the same time, the standard monthly Part B premium will drop from $170.10 to $164.90, a decrease of $5.20. The annual deductible for all Medicare Part B beneficiaries will decrease by $7.

More Changes for 2023. In addition to the changes listed above, there are important changes that will impact many readers during this new year. Keep in mind that the income levels listed for each of these programs are estimates and subject to change. Some of the income guidelines for these programs are based on federal poverty rates that have yet to be finalized for 2023.

Eligibility for the Medicare Savings Programs. Medicare Savings Programs (MSP) help people who meet the income eligibility limits to lower their Medicare costs, including assistance with paying for premiums, deductibles and coinsurance. In 2022 there were three MSP’s. However, one of these programs, the Specified Low-Income Medicare Beneficiary (SLMB) has been eliminated in 2023 leaving only two programs. For each, the income levels have been increased which means that many more New Yorkers will become eligible for MSP assistance. Neither of these programs have an asset test so eligibility is based only on your monthly gross income.

The first remaining program is the Qualified Individual (QI) program. This program only helps pay for your Medicare Part B premium. Although called an individual program, married couples also qualify. The monthly income limits are $2,107 for individuals, up from $1,549 last year, and $2,839 for couples, an increase of $759 over last year.

The second remaining program, the Qualified Medicare Beneficiary (QMB), helps you pay for both Medicare Parts A & B premiums. While increases in income limits are not as dramatic, they are significant. The limits have increased to $1,563 for an individual and $2,108 for a couple. Eligibility for both programs is determined by your local Department of Social Services (DSS). However, your HIICAP program counselor can help you through the application process.

Extra Help with Part D Drug Costs. Getting “Extra Help” means that Medicare helps pay your Medicare prescription drug coverage’s (Part D) monthly premium, any yearly deductible, co-insurance, and co-payments. More detailed information is available on the website. There are three major changes that have occurred in this program for 2023.

First, instead of applying for Extra Help through Social Security you now apply through your local County DSS office. This means that applications for Medicaid, MSP and Extra Help are now all processed through your local DSS office.

Second, income levels for eligibility have increased substantially. The individual annual qualifying income limit for Extra Help has been increased from $20,285 in 2022 to $25,284 in 2023. Also, the annual income for a couple has increased from $27,465 to $34,068 this year. Finally, and possibly the change that will have the greatest impact, there is no longer an asset test for Extra Help. This means that DSS will only look at annual gross income and will disregard any and all of your assets.

The Oneida County HIICAP Office is continuing to provide counseling services and in-person scheduling by phone as they have throughout the pandemic. If you would like to do a HIICAP counseling session over the phone or schedule an appointment at one of the two in-person locations call 315-798-5456 and select No. 2 from the choice list. In most cases you will be asked to leave your contact information on a voice mail and a staff member will return your call within 72 hours (three business days). Counselors are available at the following locations:

Copper City Community Connection, 305 E. Locust St., will offer counseling session from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Thursday only. The HIICAP program will also be scheduling at Copper City.

North Utica Senior Citizens Center, 50 Riverside Drive, Utica. Hours have been expanded at this site. Appointments will now be accepted on Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sessions are expected to run 45 minutes. Call the HIICAP office at 315-798-5456, selecting Option 2 to schedule an appointment.

Contacting HIICAP Programs in Other Counties. Here is the contact information for HIICAP programs in several counties that border Oneida County. To reach the Madison County HIICAP program call 315-697-5700 and ask to speak to a HIICAP counselor. For Herkimer County, call Catholic Charities of Herkimer County at 315-894-9917. For Lewis County call 315-376-5013 and select No. 2 from the choice list.

Dr. William Lane is the owner of William Lane Associates, a gerontological consulting firm located in Homer, N.Y. He writes a monthly column on HIICAP related issues for the OFA. Dr. Lane does not sell insurance, work for any insurance company or recommend any insurance products.


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