Dear Savvy Senior,
I know there won’t be much of a cost-of-living increase in Social Security benefits next year, but what about Medicare? How will the 0.3 percent Social Security raise affect our Part B monthly premiums in 2017? — Inquiring Beneficiary
Considering the rising cost of health care coverage, the news regarding your Medicare costs for 2017 is not too bad. Here’s what you can expect.
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Part B Premiums
Because the Social Security Administration is giving out a measly 0.3 percent cost of living increase starting in January — that equates to about a $4-$5 monthly increase on average — the 2017 Part B monthly premium for about 70 percent of Medicare recipients will increase only about $4-$5.
Thanks to the Social Security Act’s “hold harmless” provision, Medicare cannot pass along premium increases greater than the dollar increase in their Social Security checks.
So, if your Medicare Part B monthly premium is currently $104.90, you can expect it to be around $109 (on average) in 2017. Or, if you signed up for Part B for the first time in 2016, your $121.80 monthly premium will rise to around $127 (on average) next year.
Some Will Pay More
Unfortunately, the hold harmless provision does not protect all Medicare recipients. New Medicare enrollees (those who will enroll in 2017), beneficiaries who are directly billed for their Part B premium, and current beneficiaries who have deferred claiming their Social Security will pay more.
If you fit into any of these categories, your Medicare Part B premium will be $134 per month in 2017, up from $121.80.
The hold harmless rule also does not protect high-income Medicare beneficiaries who already pay higher Part B premiums because their annual incomes are above $85,000 for an individual or $170,000 for a couple. If you fit into this category, here’s what you’ll pay for your Part B premium next year, based on your 2015 tax returns.
▪ Individuals with incomes of $85,000-$107,000, or married couples filing joint tax returns with incomes of $170,000-$214,000, will pay $187.50 per month.
▪ Individuals earning $107,000-$160,000 (couples $214,000-$320,000) will pay $267.90.
▪ Individuals with incomes of $160,000-$214,000 (couples $320,000-$428,000) will pay $348.30.
▪ Individuals with incomes over $214,000 or couples above $428,000 will pay $428.60.
Another increase high-income beneficiaries (those with incomes over $85,000, or $170,000 for joint filers) need to be aware of is the surcharge on Part D premiums. Affluent seniors who have a Medicare Part D prescription drug plan will pay an additional $13.30-$76.20 per month, depending on their income, on top of their regular Part D premiums.
Deductibles and Co-Pays
Other changes that will affect all Medicare beneficiaries include the Part B deductible, which will increase to $183 in 2017 from $166 in 2016. The Part A (hospital insurance) annual deductible will also go up, to $1,316 in 2017 (it’s currently $1,288) for hospital stays up to 60 days. That increases to $329 per day for days 61-90 and to $658 a day for days 91 and beyond. And the skilled nursing facility co-insurance for days 21-100 will also increase, to $164.50 per day, up from $161 in 2016.
For more information on all the Medicare costs for 2016 visit Medicare.gov and click on “Find out how much Medicare costs in 2017,” or call 800-633-4227.
Send your senior questions to Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit SavvySenior.org. Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy Senior.”