Extra Help Basics

Extra Help federal program helps pay for some to most of the out-of-pocket costs of Medicare prescription drug coverage. It is also known as the Part D Low-Income Subsidy (LIS).

Extra Help eligibility

  1. If your monthly income is up to $1,581 in 2019 ($2,134 for couples) and your assets are below specified limits, you may be eligible for Extra Help (see the Extra Help income and asset limit chart for details). These limits include a $20 income disregard that the Social Security Administration (SSA) automatically subtracts from your monthly unearned income (e.g., retirement income).


Even if your income or assets are above the eligibility limits, you could still qualify for Extra Help because certain types of income and assets may not be counted, in addition to the $20 mentioned above.

  1. If you are enrolled in Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), or a Medicare Savings Program (MSP), you automatically qualify for Extra Help regardless of whether you meet Extra Help’s eligibility requirements. You should receive a purple-colored notice from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) informing you that you do not need to apply for Extra Help.

Extra Help benefits

The Extra Help program offers the following benefits:

  • Pays for your Part D premium up to a state-specific benchmark amount
  • Lowers the cost of your prescription drugs
  • Gives you a Special Enrollment Period (SEP) once per calendar quarter during the first nine months of the year to enroll in a Part D plan or to switch between plans (You cannot use the Extra Help SEP during the fourth calendar quarter of the year (October through December). You should use Fall Open Enrollment during this time to make prescription drug coverage changes.)
  • Eliminates any Part D late enrollment penalty you may have incurred if you delayed Part D enrollment

Depending on your income and assets, you may qualify for either full or partial Extra Help. Both programs aid with the cost of your drugs. To receive such assistance, your prescriptions should be on your plan’s formulary and you should use pharmacies in your plan’s network.

Remember that Extra Help is not a replacement for Part D or a plan on its own: You must still have a Part D plan to receive Medicare prescription drug coverage and Extra Help assistance. If you do not choose a plan, you will in most cases be automatically enrolled in one.