Medicare provides essential health insurance benefits to most people who reach age 65 and older. But like other types of insurance, it comes with costs: premiums, deductibles and copayments. For beneficiaries struggling to afford these costs, a number of federal programs exist to help.

The Medicare Savings Program MSP is one of four Medicare assistance programs. It can help pay Medicare Part A and B premiums, deductibles and copayments for individuals who have limited income and financial resources. To qualify, you must have an annual income below certain limits and the value of your assets must be below certain amounts. Income and asset limits vary by program, and they’re adjusted regularly for inflation. And while income limits focus on your earnings, asset limits take into account the value of your financial resources, excluding items such as your home and personal belongings.

While MSP enrollment rates have increased in recent years, the rate is still significantly lower than it should be. The AARP Public Policy Institute has studied the issue to understand why more people aren’t enrolling, and what can be done to address it. To do so, the PPI reviewed more than a dozen studies, analyzed CMS and Social Security Administration data and interviewed stakeholders working on the front lines of MSP underenrollment.

A key reason for Medicare savings plan article underenrollment is that eligibility is complex. The program’s income and asset requirements are often difficult to understand. Also, some states require that applicants fill out a long and confusing application with numerous fields. It’s not unusual for the process to take months, and even longer if you’re missing important documentation.

To make the system more user-friendly, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services CMS is working to simplify the application process. The agency recently announced a new rule that will streamline the form, reduce state administrative burdens and promote continuity of care and coverage. It will also encourage state-level partnerships to improve outreach and education, and facilitate sharing of best practices across states.

Besides making the application simpler, the CMS rule is expected to save people with disabilities nearly 19 million hours in paperwork each year and cut state administrative work by 2 million hours. It will also help ensure that people get the benefits they need.

Finally, it’s important to note that if you’re enrolled in an MSP, you need to report any changes in your income or financial resources. Otherwise, you could be kicked off the program or be liable for back payments. This is why it’s essential to review your application each year, even if you think you won’t see any change in your financial situation.

If you have questions about MSPs or would like help applying, reach out to your financial advisor. They can provide education about different Medicare options, including MSPs, and offer guidance on how to apply for assistance. They can also assist with preparing the necessary documents and submitting the application. It’s important to know your options so you can choose the right plan for your budget and needs.