Financial resources for Massachusetts Medicare enrollees
- Medicare beneficiaries in Massachusetts who struggle to afford their premiums may qualify for help through a Medicare Savings Program (MSP).
- Massachusetts residents may qualify for Medicaid ABD with incomes up to $1,063 a month if single ($1,437 a month if married).
- Massachusetts residents with incomes too high for Medicaid ABD can enroll in the Medicaid spend-down.
- The income limit for nursing home benefits in Massachusetts is $1,063 a month if single and $1,437 a month if married (and both spouses need care).
- In Massachusetts, the income limit for HCBS is $2,349 a month if single and $4,698 a month if married (and both spouses are applying).
- Spousal impoverishment rules allow spouses who don’t need LTSS to keep an allowance that is between $2,155 and $3,216 per month.
- Massachusetts limits applicants for Medicaid LTSS to no more than $893,000 in home equity.
- Applicants for Medicaid nursing home care or HCBS cannot give away or transfer assets for less than their value without incurring a penalty period in Massachusetts.
- Massachusetts pursues estate recovery for Medicaid benefits that are unrelated to long-term care.
The state where you lives makes a difference in how much you pay as a Medicare beneficiary. This page describes resources available to help eligible Massachusetts residents pay for Medicare premiums and cost-sharing. It also provides an overview of Medicaid programs that help qualifying individuals pay for long-term care, which is not generally covered by Medicare.
Does Massachusetts help with my Medicare premiums?
Medicare beneficiaries who are challenged to pay for coverage may find relief in the form of a Medicare Savings Program (MSP). In Massachusetts, these programs may help pay for some premiums and Medicare Part A and B cost-sharing.
- Qualified Medicare Beneficiary (QMB): The income limit is $1,402 a month if single and $1,888 a month if married. QMB pays for Part A and B cost sharing, and Part B premiums. If a beneficiary owes Part A premiums, QMB also pays for Part A premiums.
- Specified Low Income Medicare Beneficiary (SLMB): The maximum allowed income is $1,615 a month if single and $2,176 a month if married. SLMB pays for Part B premiums.
- Qualified Individuals (QI): Income is limited to $1,774 a month if single and $2,391 a month if married. QI pays for Part B premiums.
Who's eligible for Medicaid for the aged, blind and disabled in Massachusetts?
Medicare covers many services, but has some gaps and may leave the beneficiary responsible for costly out-of-pocket expenses. Some Medicare beneficiaries may qualify for Medicaid ABD to fill in some of those coverage and cost gaps.
This program usually does not cover Long Term Services and Supports (LTSS). Individuals in most states need to submit a different application and meet different income limits to receive those services.
Medicaid is called MassHealth in Massachusetts.
Income eligibility: The income limit is $1,063 a month if single and $1,437 a month if married.
Asset limits: The asset limit is $2,500 if single and $3,000 if married.
Massachusetts Medicaid spend-down for regular Medicaid for the aged, blind and disabled benefits and LTSS
Applicants who are over-income for Medicaid ABD benefits can qualify by enrolling in Massachusetts’s Medicaid spend-down program.
Enrollees activate their spend-down benefits by submitting medical bills equal to this excess income. Spend-down benefits are usually approved in 6-month increments, with additional coverage requiring the beneficiary to document additional medical expenses.
The spend-down in Massachusetts covers Long Term Services and Supports (LTSS).
Income eligibility: The income limit is $552 a month if single and $747 a month if married.
Asset limits: The asset limit is $2,000 if single and $3,000 if married.
How does Massachusetts regulate long-term services and supports (LTSS)?
As the U.S. population ages, a higher percentage of Medicare beneficiaries need long-term care. Medicare generally doesn’t help pay for long-term care, but Medicaid can fill the gap for many Americans. However, eligibility requirements vary from state to state and across the various programs within a state.
Medicaid nursing home coverage
Income limits: Massachusetts income limits for nursing home coverage are $1,063 a month if single and $1,437 a month if married (and both spouses need nursing home care).
When only one spouse needs Medicaid, the income limit for single applicants applies – and usually only the applicant’s income is counted.
Note that nursing home enrollees are not allowed to keep all of their income up to the income limit. Enrollees must pay nearly all their income each month toward their care, although they can keep a small personal needs allowance (of $72.80 a month) and money to pay for health insurance premiums (such as Medicare Part B and Medigap).
Assets limits: The asset limit is $2,000 if single and $3,000 if married and both spouses are applying. If only one spouse has Medicaid, the other spouse can keep up to $128,640. Note that many assets are not counted toward this limit.
Certain assets are never counted, including many household effects, family heirlooms, certain prepaid burial arrangements, and one car.
Home and Community Based Waiver (HCBS) services
State Medicaid program cover community-based LTSS services for applicants who need care, but can still live safely at home or an assisted living facility. These services are called Home and Community-Based Waiver (HCBS) services because recipients continue living in the community.
Income limits: The income limit is $2,349 a month if single and $4,698 a month if married (and both spouses are applying).
The income limit for single applicants is used when only one spouse needs HCBS, and usually only the applicant’s income is counted.
Spousal impoverishment protections in Massachusetts
Eligibility rules for Medicaid LTSS programs differ from other Medicaid benefits. When only one spouse is applying, only that individual’s income is counted. With most other Medicaid benefits, the income of both spouses is counted – regardless of who is applying.
If one spouse doesn’t need LTSS, spousal impoverishment rules allow that spouse to keep a Minimum Monthly Maintenance Needs Allowance (MMMNA) from their Medicaid spouse’s income.
In Massachusetts in 2020, these spousal impoverishment rules allow community spouses to keep:
- An MMMNA that is between $2,155 and $3,216 per month.
- A Community Spouse Resource Allowance (CSRA) of up to $128,640.
- A housing allowance of up to $645.50 a month.
Federal law requires states to limit eligibility for Medicaid nursing home and HCBS to applicants with a home equity interest below a specific dollar amount. In 2020, states set this home equity level based on a federal minimum of $595,000 and maximum of $893,000.
Massachusetts has chosen to use the highest allowed home equity limit – which means applicants for Medicaid LTSS can’t have more than $893,000 in home equity.
Penalties for transferring assets in Massachusetts
Because long-term care is expensive, individuals may consider reducing the value of their assets by giving gifts or selling them at below market value in order to qualify for Medicaid LTSS. To curb these asset transfers, federal law requires states to have a penalty period for Medicaid nursing home applicants who give away or transfer assets for less than their value. States can choose to also have a penalty period for HCBS. Medicaid will not cover LTSS during this period.
Massachusetts has chosen to have a penalty period that applies to nursing home care and HCBS. This penalty is based transfers or gifts made during a 60-month lookback period prior to receiving LTSS. The penalty period is calculated by dividing the amount of money transferred or given away by the cost of care (this is based on a daily rate of about $367 in Massachusetts).
Estate recovery in Massachusetts
State Medicaid agencies have to try to recover long-term care and related medical costs that were paid on behalf of beneficiaries after age 55. States have the option to pursue recoveries for all payments for Medicaid benefits (including coverage that is unrelated to LTSS).
Massachusetts has chosen to recover the cost of all Medicaid benefits (and not limit estate recovery to recipients of LTSS).
When a deceased beneficiary’s Medicaid coverage was administered by an insurer, the state will attempt to recover what it paid that insurer. That means the estate recovery amount could be more (or less) than the actual cost of Medicaid services received.
Congress exempted Medicare premiums and cost sharing from Medicaid estate recovery starting with benefits paid after December 31, 2009, but Medicaid will attempt to recover what it paid for MSP benefits through that date.
Where can Medicare beneficiaries get help in Massachusetts?
Serving Health Insurance Needs of Everyone (SHINE)
In Massachusetts, Medicare counseling is available by contacting the Serving Health Insurance Needs of Everyone (SHINE) program at 800-243-4636.
SHINE can help beneficiaries enroll in Medicare, compare and change Medicare Advantage and Part D plans, and answer questions about state Medigap protections. SHINE counselors may also be able to offer referrals to local agencies for services like home care and long-term care. The SHINE’s website has more information about the services it offers.
Elder Law Attorneys
Elder law attorneys are a resource for individuals who want help planning for Medicaid long-term care benefits. The National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA) has a search feature beneficiaries can use to find an elder attorney locally.
Massachusetts Aging and Disability Resource Centers (ADRCs)
Medicare beneficiaries in Massachusetts can also receive counseling and assistance from an Aging and Disability Resource Centers (ADRCs). ADRCs can help with applying for long-term care or other services related to aging or living with a disability.
This is a list of the ADRC regional offices in Massachusetts.
Where can I apply for Medicaid in Massachusetts?
Medicaid is administered by the Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS) in Massachusetts. You can apply for Medicaid or a Medicare Savings Program using this website or by calling the MassHealth customer service center at (800) 841-2900.
Josh Schultz has a strong background in Medicare and the Affordable Care Act. He coordinated a Medicare technical assistance contract at the Medicare Rights Center in New York City, where he represented clients in extensive Medicare claims and appeals. In addition to advocacy work, Josh helped implement federal and state health insurance exchanges at the technology firm hCentive. He has also held consulting roles, including at Sachs Policy Group, where he worked with hospital, insurer and technology clients.