More than 60 million Americans rely on Medicare for their health insurance coverage, and they will see some significant changes to the program in 2022.
Chief among those is Medicare’s largest premium increase ever. However, it isn’t all bad news, as beneficiaries are also getting access to new services and an expanded savings option.
Keep reading for more details about new changes to the federal health insurance program for people who are 65 or older or have certain disabilities or diseases.
1. A sharply higher Part B premium — for now
The biggest news this year for Medicare beneficiaries is that monthly Part B premiums are jumping.
The standard monthly Part B premium increased by $21.60, from $148.50 to $170.10. At 14.5%, this isn’t the highest percentage-rate increase in history — increases in 2005, 2010 and 2016 all exceeded it — but $21.60 is the largest increase in terms of dollars.
Almost half of that increase is reportedly the result of a new drug, Aduhelm, which has been approved for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. The medication initially had a $56,000 price tag for one year of treatment, but the price dropped 50% on Jan. 1. As a result, the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has been asked to reassess the 2022 Medicare Part B premium amount.
Depending on the result of the CMS review, Medicare beneficiaries could get some welcome news about a premium reduction.
2. Higher deductibles
The Part B premium isn’t the only cost for people on Medicare that is rising in 2022. The Part B annual deductible increased by $30 to $233, and the Part A deductible has gone up by $72 to $1,556.
Deductibles are the amount of money that a person must spend out of pocket before their insurance plan begins covering costs. The Part A deductible applies to inpatient hospital care, while the Part B deductible is for outpatient services.
3. More mental health options
Mental health can be as important as physical health, and Medicare is providing beneficiaries with a new way to get services in 2022.
Starting this year, the government insurance program will cover mental health services provided via telehealth, including audio-only phone calls. This covers diagnosis, evaluation and treatment of mental health disorders.
In a press release announcing the change, CMS administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure says:
“The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the gaps in our current health care system and the need for new solutions to bring treatments to patients, wherever they are. This is especially true for people who need behavioral health services, and the improvements we are enacting will give people greater access to telehealth and other care delivery options.”
4. More access to physician assistants’ services
Physician assistants can perform many of the same functions as doctors, including diagnosing illness, prescribing medications, and developing and managing treatment plans. But until this year, they couldn’t receive direct payments from Medicare. That changes in 2022, and it should open the door for Medicare beneficiaries to have increased access to these health care professionals.
5. More options for insulin savings
Unless you use an insulin pump, you’ll pay 100% of your insulin costs under Original Medicare, which is one of two main types of Medicare coverage. However, the Part D Senior Savings Model is one way to reduce these costs, and more companies are joining the program in 2022.
Medicare beneficiaries who are enrolled in participating Medicare Advantage plans (the other main type of Medicare coverage) or Part D plans could see their insulin costs drop to a $35-per-month co-payment. Those enrolled in the Extra Help program may have different costs.
More than 500 Medicare Advantage and Part D plans, as well as two additional insulin manufacturers, have joined the Part D Senior Savings Model this year. That brings the total number of participating plans to more than 2,100 and offers more chances for seniors who use insulin to save.