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Roughly 68,000 seniors and disabled residents will lose access to a Medicare financial assistance program January 1, when income eligibility requirements change under the newly enacted state budget.

Currently, through the Medicare Savings Program, the state Department of Social Services (DSS) pays Medicare Part B premiums for low-income elderly and disabled adults earning less than 246 percent of the federal poverty level, or about $29,667. Part B covers things like doctor visits, lab tests and outpatient care. Those earning less than 234 percent of the poverty level, or about $28,220, can receive additional help covering co-pays, deductibles, and prescriptions.

In the new year, only those earning less than 100 percent of the poverty level — or $12,060 — will qualify to receive all benefits under the program, and those receiving subsidies for premiums alone must earn less than 135 percent of the poverty level to be considered for eligibility. The Medicare Savings Program gives enrollees access to some benefits of the Medicaid program, which is a federal-state partnership.

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