Qualified Medicare Beneficiary (QMB) Program

Pharmacies may bill prescriptions from time to time for patients with dual eligibility, possessing both Medicare and Medicaid benefits. Some of these patients are eligible for the Qualified Medicare Beneficiary (QMB) program which provides Medicaid coverage of Medicare Part A and Part B premiums and cost sharing to low-income beneficiaries – CMS states that about 12% of Medicare patients were in this program in 2021.

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Federal law prohibits Medicare providers (including pharmacies) from billing QMB patients for cost sharing amounts related to Medicare Part A or B covered items. QMB patients bare no legal obligation to pay cost sharing for these items – cost sharing amounts must only be billed to Medicaid. If there is a copay after billing Medicaid, pharmacies may collect this amount.

Pharmacies are most likely to encounter these situations when a dual eligible patient has a Medicare Advantage Plan (MAPD) and you are billing for Part B covered items like diabetic test strips, continuous glucose monitor supplies, or nebulizer drugs. Pharmacies may see a claim response of “Benefit Stage Qualifier (BSQ) 51” in NCPDP D.0 field 393-MV to alert you that items were covered under the Part B benefit and that balance billing is prohibited.

Please note that the QMB Program and prohibitions on collecting copays apply to Part B covered items only; pharmacies must continue to collect copays for Part D covered drugs.

PAAS Tips:

  • Be on the lookout for BSQ 51 response messages when billing for Part B covered items to patients with MAPD plan
  • If patient states they are a QMB but the claim system does not provide BSQ 51 message, then follow-up with the MAPD plan or the state Medicaid program

Eric Hartkopf, PharmD