Medicare’s low-income support programs

Debra – N.Y.: I’m a former administrative assistant in New York City. I was laid off five years ago and can’t find a job. My savings went on spending for dental issues. I am making ends meet by running a small eBay store where I barely make $7,000 a year. I get my health care from Weill Cornell Medicine, where they let me pay what I can afford. Now, I need Medicare, but I don’t have a nickel to spare. I can’t really afford even the Part B premium. But I hear that if I don’t get it now, but maybe win the lottery later and can afford it, that I will be penalized. Without money, what are my options? I want to wait as long as I can to collect Social Security, so that my benefits will be as much as possible.

Phil Moeller: Debra, I’m sorry to hear about your hard times, which have been shared by way, way too many Americans in recent years. You should definitely qualify for Medicare’s various low-income assistance programs, which defray premiums and insurance expenses, plus its Extra Help program to help pay for prescription drugs. I am assuming you are not on Medicaid, but that may be an option as well. You should call the free counseling service in New York provided by the State Health Insurance Assistance Program. Someone there should be able to gather your income and other related details and help you get these benefits. Best of luck.