Millions of seniors who benefit from Medicare face steeper 2016 premiums for part of the federal health insurance program.
The Center for Retirement Research at Boston College reports that due to a quirk in the law, almost one-third of Medicare beneficiaries could pay a monthly premium for Medicare Part B that’s 52 percent higher or more — instead of 15 percent higher than this year’s base monthly premium of about $105.
Medicare Part B covers physician and outpatient hospital services. (Part A, which is paid for by the Health Insurance Trust Fund, covers inpatient hospital services, skilled nursing facilities, home health care and hospice care. Part D covers prescription drugs.)
The steeper Part B premium hike would apply to the about 30 percent of Medicare beneficiaries who include:
- New enrollees during the year.
- Enrollees who do not receive a Social Security benefit check.
- Enrollees with high incomes, who are subject to the income-related premium adjustment.
- Dual Medicare-Medicaid beneficiaries, whose full premiums are paid by state Medicaid programs.
The situation arises as the Social Security Administration anticipates that next year will be the third since 1975 that beneficiaries will not receive a cost-of-living adjustment, according to the Center for Retirement Research:
The problem is that the law contains a hold-harmless provision that limits the dollar increase in the premium to the dollar increase in an individual’s Social Security benefit. This provision applies to roughly 70 percent of Part B enrollees.
Unless Congress or Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell intervenes, an estimated 15 million people who make up the other 30 percent of beneficiaries will face the steeper premium, the Fiscal Times reports.
A spokesperson for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services confirmed to the publication that the increase is in the works but a final decision won’t be made until later this year.
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