If you qualify for a Medicare buy-in, your state will pay part of your Part A or Part B Medicare premiums or possibly both. You must qualify for one of the Medicare savings programs to buy in. To be eligible for a Part A or Part B buy-in, you must be at least 65 or disabled and working and either a U.S. citizen or a legal, permanent resident. If you are the latter, you must have lived in the United States for five years prior to your application.
Check Savings Programs
You can't buy into Medicare Parts A or B unless you qualify for one of the four savings programs available. The Qualified Medicare Beneficiary program helps you pay the premiums for Medicare Parts A and B. If you have less than $952 in income each month, you may qualify for QMB. Couples must have less than $1,282 in income each month to qualify. The Specified Low-Income Medicare Beneficiary program helps a single person receiving less than $1,138 each month and couples who receive less than $1,534 each month pay Part B premiums. A person with a disability may be eligible for the Qualified Individuals programs, which pays part of the Part B premium for a person receiving less than $1,278 each month and couples who receive less than $1,724 each month. If you're working and qualified as disabled, you may receive help with Part A premiums though the Qualified Disabled and Working Individuals. An individual in the program must bring in less than $3,810 each month, and couples must receive less than $5,130 each month.
Apply for Part B
You must have Medicare Part B, the medical insurance coverage, to buy into Medicare Part A. You will need to apply for Part B at your local Social Security office or on the website of the Social Security Administration. You will need proof of all your income, including the money you earn working and unearned income, such as pension payments or Social Security. You need proof of your date of birth and citizenship, such as your birth certificate or U.S. passport, and your Social Security card. If you visit a Social Security office, let the worker who helps you know you're going to apply for a Part A buy-in and for a savings program. You need a copy of your filed application whether you apply in person or online.
Part A Buy-in Screening and Part B Buy-in
Once you receive your Medicare Part B card in the mail and are officially enrolled, you can be screened for the Part A buy-in. You'll need to go to the Medicaid office in your county, which is part of the local Social Services department. You'll need proof of all income, your Medicare Part B card and proof of your address, such as your state identification. Ask the worker to screen you for the Medicare Part A buy-in program, and apply for the savings program for which you are eligible. All savings programs except Qualified Disabled and Working Individuals help with Part B premiums, so once you're approved for one of the other three savings programs, you'll have bought into Part B.
Already Enrolled in Part A and Extra Help
If you're already enrolled in Part A but not Part B, you may go directly to your local social services office and apply for the Part B buy-in. The social services worker will help you enroll in Part B and the savings program. You'll receive "Extra Help" automatically if you're eligible for the Qualified Medicare Beneficiary program. Extra Help pays for part of the cost of the drugs covered by Medicare Part D. You will need to enroll in a Part D plan if you haven't already done so, but you will receive a letter explaining what Part D plans are available to you. If you don't choose one yourself, Social Security will select a plan for you.
All Medicare savings programs have recertification dates, so double check the recertification periods in your state. You should receive a notice in the mail before you're required to recertifiy. If you don't, contact the Medicaid office you visited and ask for the application so you don't lose the program benefits. You'll be responsible for paying all the Medicare Part A and Part B premiums if you don't recertify.
Keep in mind that if you have 10 years, or 40 quarters, of work history, you already qualify for free Part A Medicare coverage. If you have less than 10 years of work history, you may have to pay some kind of premium for your coverage. The longer your work history, the lower the premium drops. The maximum premium in 2010 stood at $461 per month.
- Medicare Interactive: The Medicare Part A Buy-In
- Medicare.gov: Medicare Part A (Hospital Insurance)
- Medicare.gov: QMB
- Oregon Department of Human Services: WG-4 Medicare Part A Buy-In
- Medicare.gov: Medicare Part B
- Medicare.gov: Medicare Part D
- Medicare.gov: Extra Help
- Medicare.gov: Savings Programs
- DBA (Alaska): Medicare Buy-In
- Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare: Buy-in of Medicare Part B
- Thinkstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images