Is a Medicare Savings Program the Same as Medicaid?

Many people ask, ‘Is Medicare Savings Program the same as Medicaid?’ The short answer is, they’re related but distinct programs, each with its unique purpose. Medicare Savings Programs are designed to help cover certain Medicare expenses for eligible low-income individuals, functioning within the larger umbrella of Medicaid services.

Our article dives into the nuances of both MSPs and Medicaid, helping you grasp their differences and how they might interact to support your healthcare needs.


Key Takeaways

  • Medicare Savings Programs (MSPs) assist low-income Medicare beneficiaries with their Medicare costs and differ from Medicaid, which offers broader healthcare coverage.


  • Eligibility for MSPs is based on income and asset thresholds, with several programs available designed to assist with different aspects of Medicare expenses such as premiums and copayments.


  • While MSPs focus on Medicare cost assistance, beneficiaries can also receive additional support through other programs like Extra Help for prescription drugs, and in some cases, combine MSP benefits with full Medicaid coverage.

Compare Plans in One Step!

Enter Zip Code



Decoding Medicare Savings Programs and Medicaid

Medicare Savings Programs (MSPs) are state-sponsored initiatives designed to alleviate the financial burden of Medicare costs for beneficiaries with limited resources. These programs cover a portion or the entirety of out-of-pocket Medicare costs, depending on the beneficiary’s income and assets. Think of MSPs as financial lifeboats, helping beneficiaries stay afloat amidst the sea of healthcare expenses.

In recent years, the federal government has taken steps to enhance access to MSPs for low-income Medicare beneficiaries. The introduction of a new Medicaid rule is anticipated to simplify the enrollment process, potentially leading to an increase in enrollees.

This rule automates applications for individuals with Medicare Part D Low-Income Subsidy and automatically enrolls certain Medicare beneficiaries, making the journey to financial relief smoother.

Decoding Medicare Savings Programs and Medicaid

Within the MSP umbrella, beneficiaries fall into two categories: full-benefit or partial-benefit dually eligible. Full-benefit dually eligible beneficiaries are entitled to comprehensive Medicaid benefits on top of MSP benefits, while partial-benefit dually eligible beneficiaries receive support solely through MSPs, usually covering assistance with Medicare premiums and cost-sharing.


Understanding Medicare Savings Programs


Medicare savings programs

Medicare Savings Programs (MSPs) are essentially safety nets for low-income individuals who struggle to cover their Medicare costs.

These programs offer a lifeline, helping cover Medicare cost sharing expenses such as deductibles, copayments, and coinsurance.

Imagine not having to worry about your next doctor’s visit or your monthly prescription refill because MSPs are there to catch you when you fall.

There are numerous benefits provided by MSPs. They include reduced Medicare drug plan expenses, discounts on Medicare Part B premium, and aid with medical insurance premiums, deductibles, copayments, and coinsurance.

Yet, you don’t have the privilege to select a specific program for enrollment. Enrollment is based on the program that best aligns with your income, assets, and other details provided on your application.



The various categories of MSPs accessible include the Qualified Medicare Beneficiary (QMB) Program and the Specified Low-Income Medicare Beneficiary (SLMB) Program, all designed to help with Medicare coverage costs for eligible individuals.


The Role of Medicaid in Healthcare Coverage

While MSPs have a laser focus on assisting with Medicare costs, Medicaid, a state and federal program, takes a broader approach. It provides comprehensive healthcare coverage for low-income individuals, including certain Medicare beneficiaries. Medicaid is like an umbrella, shielding individuals from a wide range of healthcare costs that Medicare doesn’t usually cover.

One of the significant advantages of Medicaid is its coverage of essential services such as prescription drugs, long-term care, and personal care services.

It also provides coverage for additional services such as transportation to medical services and dental, vision, and hearing services, which are less frequently addressed by traditional health insurance. However, the transition from Medicaid to Medicare, known as the ‘coverage cliff,’ can be challenging for beneficiaries, as they are required to start covering Medicare premiums and cost-sharing expenses, which were previously fully covered by Medicaid.


Comparing MSPs and Medicaid Coverage

While both MSPs and Medicaid aim to provide financial relief to low-income individuals, they differ in their approach and coverage. MSPs are dedicated programs under Medicaid designed to aid individuals in covering Medicare premiums and other cost-sharing expenses.

On the other hand, full Medicaid coverage offers a more comprehensive healthcare safety net, covering medical services, prescription drugs, and long-term care for eligible individuals.

However, this doesn’t mean that individuals can’t benefit from both programs. Individuals who meet the eligibility criteria for Medicaid can also avail themselves of benefits from MSPs, such as the SLMB program which specifically covers the payment of Medicare Part B premiums.

Clarifying Eligibility Requirements for MSPs

Beneficiaries must comprehend the eligibility requirements of MSPs to take advantage of these benefits. To be eligible for an MSP, individuals must possess Medicare Part A and satisfy the income and asset thresholds specific to their state. In the world of MSPs, not all assets are created equal.

The eligibility evaluation for MSPs takes into account certain assets, although some, such as interest, may be disregarded.

The application process for MSPs is not overly complex. It involves reaching out to your local Medicaid office to acquire the application steps and information on where to submit your details. Think of it as a treasure hunt, where the treasure is financial relief from Medicare costs.


Income Considerations for MSP Qualification

Income is a significant factor in qualifying for MSPs. The income thresholds for MSPs are determined according to the Federal Poverty Guidelines and differ by state. All MSPs incorporate a $20 general income disregard, which implies that the first $20 of your monthly income is not factored into the income limit.


Apply for medicare savings program



Think of it as a small financial cushion that the federal government provides to low-income individuals.

The Federal Poverty Guidelines play a crucial role in determining the income limits for MSPs, and new limits are typically published annually. However, these income requirements for MSPs can vary across different states due to factors such as:


  • income
  • assets
  • state of residence
  • family structure


Asset Evaluation for MSP Enrollment

In addition to income, assets also come into play when evaluating MSP eligibility. Some assets, such as your primary home, one car, and burial plots, are excluded from consideration when determining MSP eligibility.

The maximum asset limit for MSP enrollment varies by state, as each state establishes its own income and asset thresholds for the programs.

To determine eligibility for MSP enrollment, assets are evaluated via a simplified procedure through a definitive rule. Determining eligibility involves excluding certain assets, but they must be clearly identified for exclusion.


Navigating the Application Process

The application process for MSPs is fairly simple. It entails reaching out to your local Medicaid office to acquire the application steps and information on where to submit your details. However, keep in mind that eligibility criteria for MSPs can vary depending on the state.

Think of it as a unique puzzle, where each state has its own pieces that need to be put together.

The application process for MSPs generally takes approximately 45 days from the submission of the required paperwork. Think of it as a bit of a waiting game, but the potential financial relief from Medicare costs makes the wait worthwhile.

The Four Types of Medicare Savings Programs

MSPs are not a one-size-fits-all solution. They come in four distinct flavors, each designed to cater to specific financial needs of beneficiaries. These programs include:


  1. Qualified Medicare Beneficiary (QMB) Program
  2. Specified Low-Income Medicare Beneficiary (SLMB) Program
  3. Qualifying Individual (QI) Program
  4. Qualified Disabled and Working Individuals (QDWI) Program



Medicare savings program eligibility



The QMB Program assists in the payment of:


  • Medicare Part A and B premiums
  • Deductibles
  • Coinsurance
  • Copayments for services and items that are covered by Medicare


This program provides a financial buffer for eligible beneficiaries.

Then we have the SLMB Program. This program is specifically designed to cover the Medicare Part B premium for individuals who meet the eligibility criteria.

If your income falls within a specific range, the QI Program could be your saving grace. It provides assistance to cover Medicare premiums, specifically the Medicare Part B premium, which amounts to $164.90 per month for most individuals.

Last but not least, there’s the QDWI Program. This program provides coverage for eligible individuals by paying only Medicare Part A premiums.

Each program comes with its unique rules and eligibility criteria, thus it’s essential to identify the one that aligns with your individual financial circumstances.


Qualified Medicare Beneficiary (QMB) Program

The QMB Program acts as a financial shield, alleviating the burden of Medicare Part A and B premiums, deductibles, and coinsurance for eligible individuals. To qualify for QMB coverage, an individual must be entitled to benefits under Medicare Part A and satisfy the income and resources criteria.

It’s also worth noting that Medicaid beneficiaries can also be eligible for QMB benefits provided they meet the requirements. The QMB eligibility commences on the first day of the month following the month in which the individual is certified for QMB benefits.


Specified Low-Income Medicare Beneficiary (SLMB) Program

The SLMB Program can provide much-needed financial support to those who meet certain income and resource thresholds. This program provides coverage for the Medicare Part B premium, offering a financial cushion for eligible individuals.

The income limit for the SLMB program is set at $1,269 per month for individuals and $1,711 per month for married couples, with a resource limit of $7,730. The SLMB program is funded by the state, providing a much-needed helping hand for those struggling with Medicare costs.


Qualifying Individual (QI) Program

The QI Program offers financial assistance to those whose incomes range between 120% and 135% of the federal poverty level. It provides assistance by covering the Medicare Part B premium. To qualify for this program, individuals must meet specific qualifications that are comparable to those for Qualified Medicare Beneficiary coverage, with the exception of the income range.

An individual’s QI eligibility is determined on an annual basis, and it may commence from the month of application. Beneficiaries with QI coverage can receive medical coverage for the three months preceding their enrollment, provided they meet all eligibility criteria.


Qualified Disabled and Working Individuals (QDWI) Program

The QDWI Program serves as a financial safety net for working individuals under 65 with disabilities who do not receive Medicaid benefits.


Medicare savings program arizona



This program provides coverage by paying only Medicare Part A premiums. To be eligible, individuals must meet the stipulated income and resource criteria.

The application process for the QDWI program requires adherence to the monthly income limit of $4,945 and the asset limit of $4,000. For a married couple, these limits are $6,659 and $6,000, respectively.

This program provides a financial lifeline for disabled individuals, allowing them to continue their work while receiving essential healthcare coverage.

Compare plans and enroll online



Speak with a licensed insurance agent

TTY 711

Mon-Fri : 8am-9pm ET

compare medicare advantage plans

Additional Assistance Beyond MSP: Extra Help and Medicaid

While MSPs provide significant financial relief, there are other forms of assistance available to low-income Medicare beneficiaries. One such program is Extra Help, a Medicare initiative designed to assist individuals with limited income and resources in reducing or eliminating costs associated with Part D, which offers prescription drug coverage.

To apply for the Extra Help program, individuals can complete an online application through the Social Security Administration’s website. The assistance provided is based on an individual’s income and assets. The program provides substantial assistance with prescription drug costs by:


  • Waiving premiums for the drug plan
  • Eliminating deductibles
  • Capping the cost at $11.20 for each brand-name drug
  • Capping the cost at $4.50 for each generic drug.


In addition to Extra Help, some individuals may qualify for both MSP benefits and full Medicaid coverage. This combination provides comprehensive healthcare assistance, covering a wide range of services and providing additional financial relief.


Extra Help with Prescription Drug Costs

Extra Help, a federal program, offers financial assistance to low-income Medicare beneficiaries. It helps reduce or eliminate Part D expenses, which pertain to the prescription drug coverage aspect of Medicare. Eligibility encompasses those who are dually enrolled in Medicare and Medicaid, participate in a Medicare Savings Program, or receive Supplemental Security Income.


Medicare savings program 2024



To be eligible for the Extra Help program, an individual’s monthly income must not exceed $1,843 in 2024 ($2,485 for couples), and their assets must fall below specified limits. Individuals can apply for this program online, and the benefits include up to $4.50 for each generic drug and up to $11.20 for each brand-name drug.


Combining MSP Benefits with Full Medicaid Coverage

Some individuals might qualify for both MSP benefits and full Medicaid coverage, providing comprehensive healthcare assistance. To be eligible for both, individuals must be enrolled in Medicare Part A and/or Part B, and must also be enrolled in full-benefit Medicaid and/or the MSPs administered by each state.

The combination of MSP with full Medicaid coverage offers individuals the opportunity to:


  • Reduce healthcare expenses
  • Avail themselves of both Medicare- and Medicaid-covered services
  • Receive supplementary support for expenses not covered by Medicare, including premiums, deductibles, co-payments, and other out-of-pocket costs.

Impact of MSP on Medicare Advantage Plans

Medicare Savings Programs also influence Medicare Advantage plans. By aligning MSPs with Medicare Advantage plans, individuals can see reductions in their Medicare costs, providing additional financial relief. MSPs can assist in covering Medicare premiums, deductibles, and coinsurance, thereby alleviating the financial strain on beneficiaries.

Certain Medicare Advantage plans may work better with MSPs. The selection of a Medicare Advantage Plan can have a substantial influence on MSP beneficiaries, as it dictates their primary health insurance coverage, the scope of services included, and the payment framework for health benefits.


Medicare savings program georgia



MSP benefits have the potential to reduce the expenses associated with Medicare Advantage plans, including the plan’s cost-sharing requirements. The coordination of benefits determines which insurance, either Medicare or other insurance, is primarily responsible for covering the beneficiary’s healthcare expenses.


Choosing a Plan with MSP Considerations

In choosing a Medicare Advantage plan, the impact of MSP benefits on coverage and costs should be taken into account. The MSP benefits can help cover out-of-pocket costs associated with Medicare Advantage plans, providing additional financial relief for eligible individuals.

Factors to consider when selecting a Medicare Advantage Plan that aligns with MSP benefits include:


  • Supplemental coverage
  • Prescription drug coverage
  • Medical conditions
  • Potential out-of-pocket costs
  • Benefits such as non-medical services that certain plans may provide


Coordination of Benefits Between MSP and Medicare Advantage

Coordinating benefits between MSPs and Medicare Advantage plans can offer extra financial support for qualified individuals. MSP benefits can help cover out-of-pocket costs associated with Medicare Advantage plans, including the plan’s cost-sharing requirements.

Individuals who are considered full-benefit dual eligibles have the ability to access comprehensive Medicaid coverage and receive full Medicaid benefits from Medicare Advantage concurrently, allowing them to take advantage of the complete range of services provided by both programs.


To sum up, Medicare Savings Programs and Medicaid are two distinct programs designed to provide financial relief to low-income Medicare beneficiaries.

While they have different scopes and coverage, they both aim to alleviate the financial burden of healthcare costs. MSPs help cover Medicare costs, including premiums, deductibles, and coinsurance, while Medicaid provides comprehensive healthcare coverage.

Through this blog post, we hope to have clarified the differences, similarities, and interplay between MSPs and Medicaid. Understanding these programs and their eligibility criteria can help you navigate the complex world of healthcare coverage and make informed decisions about your healthcare needs.

Frequently Asked Questions



Is MSP the same as Medicaid?

The Medicare Savings Program (MSP) is a Medicaid-administered program that helps cover Medicare premiums and cost-sharing expenses for individuals with low income. MSP is different from Medicaid but can be used in conjunction with it.


What is the Medicare savings program?

The Medicare Savings Program (MSP) is a Medicaid-run program that assists low-income individuals with covering Medicare premiums and cost-sharing expenses. Eligibility is income-based, and the guidelines may vary by state, so it’s important to check with your state’s Medicaid agency for specific details.


What is the difference between full Medicaid and QMB?

The main difference between full Medicaid and QMB is that Medicaid provides benefits for services not normally covered by Medicare, while QMB helps pay for services only if they are covered by Medicare. This can have significant implications for coverage and access to different types of medical services.


What does QMB mean for a Medicare patient?

For a Medicare patient, QMB means that they can receive assistance from Medicaid to pay for their Medicare premiums, co-insurance, and deductibles for Medicare covered services. This program helps with Part A and Part B premiums, as well as deductibles, coinsurance, and copayments.


What are the eligibility requirements for MSPs?

To be eligible for an MSP, you need to have Medicare Part A and meet your state’s income and asset thresholds. This ensures you meet the eligibility requirements.

call today for help



 ZRN Health & Financial Services, LLC, a Texas limited liability company

Find & Compare Plans Online 



Speak with a licensed insurance agent

TTY 711

Mon-Fri : 8am-9pm EST

Russell Noga
( Medicare Expert )

Russell Noga is the CEO of ZRN Health & Financial Services, and head content editor of several Medicare insurance online publications. He has over 15 years of experience as a licensed Medicare insurance broker helping Medicare beneficiaries learn about Medicare, Medicare Advantage Plans, Medigap insurance, and Medicare Part D prescription drug plans.