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How Asset Tests Block Low-Income Medicare Beneficiaries from Needed Benefits

The Medicare Savings Programs and Medicaid help elderly Medicare beneficiaries with their cost-sharing responsibilities and provide much-needed additional benefits. But 40 to 50 percent of eligible low-income Medicare beneficiaries are not enrolled in the Medicare Savings Programs. One persistent barrier is the use of asset tests, which greatly complicate the application process for applicants and program staff. Older people with low incomes generally have few assets and the income and assets of older people who qualify for public programs do not change substantially over time. Findings suggest that use of asset tests should be eliminated or asset limits should be increased; at a minimum, cost-of-living adjustments should be made. Findings also indicate that the renewal process should be simplified, and use of verification documents should be reduced or eliminated.

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How Asset Tests Block Low-Income Medicare Beneficiaries from Needed Benefits, Laura Summer and Lee Thompson, The Commonwealth Fund, May 2004