Government Benefits for Seniors: Navigate the Maze!
There’s a confusing maze of government income, health and care programs for seniors out there. Here’s a quick guide to eight of them:
Monthly Income Programs
Supplemental Security Income (SSI): SSI provides monthly income to people with low incomes who are blind, disabled or over the age of 65. In 2011, California’s single adults may receive monthly SSI of no more than $845, while couples may receive no more than $1,407. To be eligible for SSI, a single person cannot have more than $2,000, and a couple cannot have more than $3,000, in countable assets. For more information on SSI’s eligibility requirements, see dss.cahwnet.gov, and type “SSI Eligibility” in the search box.
Health and Care Programs
Medicare: Medicare is the national health program that covers seniors aged 65 and older, and people with disabilities. Seniors who do not have 40 or more quarters of Medicare-covered employment, but are otherwise eligible, may enroll by paying monthly premiums. Those who are younger than 65, but have been receiving SSD for 24 months or longer, are also covered by Medicare. For more detailed information, go to medicare.gov, and type in “Medicare & You” in the search box.
Medi-Cal: Medi-Cal, California’s version of the federal Medicaid program covers health care for low-income families, seniors and people with disabilities. Those who qualify for SSI automatically qualify for Medi-Cal. It is also available to low-income seniors whose countable assets are not more than $2,000 for a single person and $3,000 for a married couple. Medi-Cal will impose a deductible or share of costs for monthly earnings that exceed $600 for a single person, and $934 for a couple, although credit for payment of health insurance premiums is applied. For more information visit the California Health Advocates website at cahealthadvocates.org.
In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS): California’s IHSS program assists low-income seniors and others in avoiding nursing home care by providing hourly reimbursements for personal care, meal preparation, laundry, grocery shopping, housecleaning and transportation to medical appointments. The countable asset limits are $2,000 for a single person and $3,000 for a couple. For more detailed information, visit the California Department of Social Services website at cdss.ca.gov, and type “IHSS Consumer Handbook” in the search box.