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How Benefit Programs Help Budgets

Thousands of public and private programs are available to seniors with a qualifying income. These programs pay for health care, prescriptions, food and utilities. Millions of eligible seniors miss out on these benefits because they are not aware of the programs or how to apply. As a result, too many make dangerous trade-offs, such as foregoing needed home repairs, avoiding social engagements, skipping meals and cutting pills.

What benefits mean for older adults

One in three Americans aged 65+ is economically insecure—lacking the resources needed to meet basic food, housing, and medical needs. Millions of financially vulnerable seniors and adults with disabilities qualify for—but are not yet enrolled in— programs that could help them pay for prescription drugs, medical care, food, or heat for their homes.

Becoming economically insecure in later phases of your life presents numerous challenges including:

  1. Monthly expenses are larger than monthly income. According to the Survey of Consumer Finances, older adult households spend an average of $28,644.30 on basic living costs, yet roughly 8.5 million older Americans have annual incomes below $24,000.

  2. Difficulty paying monthly bills such as a mortgage or rent. According to the Survey of Consumer Finances, 29.2% of senior households owed money on a mortgage, home equity line of credit, or both. Of these, the median money owed was $68,500 in 2016.

  3. Accruing debt prior to or in retirement. Debt levels for seniors are double 2001 levels; over 60% of households headed by a person aged 65+ had some form of debt in 2016 – median debt averages $31,300(double 2001 levels).

For these seniors, benefits can play a vital role in reducing their expenses and increasing their budgets. Below are a list of benefits that may help your household reduce monthly expenses and/or increase monthly income.

  1. The Medicare Part D Low-Income Subsidy (LIS, or Extra Help) helps people with limited incomes and resources pay for their Medicare prescription drug costs.

  2. Medicare Savings Programs (MSPs) help beneficiaries afford Medicare premiums, deductibles, coinsurance, and copayments for their inpatient and outpatient health care.

  3. Medicaid pays for a broad range of medical services for poor seniors, younger adults living with disabilities, and children and their family caregivers.

  4. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly Food Stamps) provides credits on electronic cards that enable recipients to buy nutritious food at participating stores.

  5. The Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) provides grants to states to assist qualified individuals with their home heating and cooling costs. As long as the state funds last, the program ensures that low-income people do not have to choose between paying their energy bills and buying food or other basic necessities.

Help online and in your community

Several resources are available to help seniors with identifying and applying for programs saving money on health care, food, household utilities and more:

  1. Our online questionnaire is a free, tool to help older adults financially prepare for retirement which or more than 2,000 public and private benefits available in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

  2. Eldercare Locator is a public information service of the U.S. Administration for Community Living and administered by n4a. The Eldercare Locator’s National Call Center is open weekdays from 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern time and serves as a trusted gateway for older adults and caregivers searching for information on benefits, home and community-based services, transportation and more. For more information, call: 1-800-677-1116.

  3. NCOA supports 85 Benefits Enrollment Centers in 43 states offering personalized, one-on-one assistance so Medicare recipients can find and enroll in all available benefits.

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