October 13, 2017

For many, rising premiums for Part B Medicare will erase Social Security gains [Tampa Bay Times]

Justine Griffin of the Tampa Bay Times writes:

“More than 2.4 million seniors in Florida rely on Medicare, and a good chunk of them could face rising health care premiums next year.

With Medicare’s annual open enrollment period beginning Sunday, most of the changes to plans and services seem slight for 2018. But experts say Floridians will be among the millions affected nationwide by anticipated rising premiums for Part B plans, which cover outpatient care, doctor bills, physical therapy and more routine health services.

Part B is optional to enroll in and costs most people a monthly premium, which was on average around $134 in 2017, depending on the enrollee’s income. However, participants paid around $109 a month if they chose to have the monthly fee deducted from their Social Security checks. These are the prices that will rise in 2018, analysts say.

Part B premiums are projected to rise an average of 5.4 percent each year from now through 2024, which is faster than other parts of Medicare, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Another Part B change will affect a smaller group of seniors, particularly those in higher income brackets, who pay a surcharge that increases their premiums. Due to federal legislation enacted in 2015, most of those brackets are being adjusted in a way that will put more people in the higher income tiers, increasing their premiums.

For example, the top tier, where people pay the highest surcharges, soon will be expanded to include individuals making more than $160,000. That’s down from $214,000 currently. Similarly, the next tier down will start at $133,001 in individual income instead of the current $160,001.

‘The wealthiest will see a bump in their premiums, for sure. We’re talking about folks in the top income levels, so not too many people will affected, but prices are going up,’ said Anne Swerlick of the Florida Policy Institute [emphasis added].”

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