The big news from Washington is the vote to approve the payroll tax extension through the end of 2012. Also included in the bill is a provision to avoid a 27% cut in pay for doctors serving Medicare patients.
And within the bill, HR 3630 is sec. 2211: Extension of the Qualifying Individual (QI) program.
In late-December, the state of Arizona sent letters to about 12,500 people telling them they would lose the help they get paying for their Medicare Part B premium. This would mean having $99.90 taken out of their monthly Social Security check – and thus about $100 less to live on each month. In January these folks got a letter saying they would get help, but only through the end of February. I wonder if the state will send another letter telling these folks about the extension of the QI program through the end of 2012?
The QI program is a fixed-amount block grant to states to administer through their Medicaid programs. In Arizona we know Medicaid as AHCCCS (pronounced “access”) which stands for the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System.
The Center for Medicare Advocacy says the QI program has been extended year-to-year ever since its initial authorization expired in 2002. With this funding record, I wonder why AHCCCS felt it necessary to scare so many low-income seniors and disabled Arizonans with letters saying the federal government would not continue the QI program?
Through the QI program, states have a limited amount of money from which they must pay, on a first come, first serve basis, the Medicare Part B premium for Medicare beneficiaries with incomes between 120% and 135% of the federal poverty level. In 2012, the limit for this group is $1,256.63/month ($15,079.50/year) for an individual; $1,702.13/month ($20,425.50/year) for a couple.
Add $20 to these figures due to a rule that sets aside $20 of a person’s income. And the state of Arizona does not consider a person’s assets, like money in the bank or IRAs, when a person applies for this help. Arizona (AHCCCS) just wants to know a person’s income.
Contact me for more information about getting help through AHCCCS and the QI program, SLMB, and QMB.
There are other levels for getting this help and more, and I wrote about them last week: Extra Help for Medicare and Part D costs.