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Informing Policy. Advancing Health.

Low Income Subsidy and Medicare Savings Programs in Colorado

The Colorado Health Institute released a new fact sheet today on the Medicare Low Income Subsidy (LIS) and Medicare Savings Programs (MSP), part of our ongoing work looking at the resources and supports needed by Colorado’s aging population.

About 10 percent of Coloradans were insured by Medicare in 2011, but watch for that percentage to climb as Colorado’s baby boomers age into their retirement years.

Our fact sheet describes both programs, discusses who is eligible and explains how the programs are funded. It includes Colorado enrollment estimates for both programs. And it highlights different levels of enrollment in each program.

Nearly all Colorado seniors have health insurance because of Medicare. But they often face high out-of-pocket costs because of Medicare’s cost-sharing requirements and their greater health care needs.

Enter LIS and MSP. These programs for low-income Medicare enrollees cover all or some of the Medicare premiums as well as cost-sharing and prescription drug expenses. The additional support is designed to ensure that people living on fixed retirement or disability incomes don’t forego needed medical care or prescription drugs due to cost. 

Enrollees who are eligible for the LIS are likely to be eligible for the MSP, too. But nearly 80 percent of those eligible for LIS are enrolled, while the MSP enrollment rate is much lower, between 13 percent to 33 percent.

Research suggests several reasons for the lower MSP enrollment rate, including enrollment methods, program awareness and eligibility criteria. LIS is administered by the federal government, with many eligible enrollees either automatically enrolled or required to submit only a short application. MSP is administered by states. Colorado does not have automatic enrollment. Enrollees must submit a Medicaid application to determine eligibility.

The Colorado Health Institute will continue to monitor efforts to address barriers to LIS and MSP enrollment and other services for Colorado’s seniors.