When you begin to hear phrases like, “poor public policy” and “this increase is unprecedented”, you know there’s a battle brewing. When it’s in Congress, you know it’s going to be anything but pleasant, is sure to have plenty of rhetoric and is bound to come with a healthy dose of threats of shutting the government down. The Medicare increases for 2016 are shaping up to be one more confusing failure that has few, if any, viable solutions to protect the nation’s seniors.
Lawmakers, so far, have been unable to agree on a solution that will prevent massive premium increases for millions of Medicare recipients in 2016. Medicare Part B coverage, which includes doctors’ visits and outpatient care is facing a whopping 52 percent increase in the premiums. Efforts to freeze or even to simply reduce the increase have yielded no solutions.
Medicare Open Enrollment
Now, for those enrolled in Medicare, they’re in the open enrollment season and unsure of what their decisions will ultimately mean. Congress has so far been able to make any decision that could ease those worries. Open enrollment closes December 7.
State by State
Further complicating matters is the inability of states to balance their own budgets due to the inaction of the federal government. They’re sure to be hit hard and no state is without its own ongoing budget woes. The premium increase would affect about nine million lower-income Medicare beneficiaries whose premiums are paid by state Medicaid programs because they are eligible for both plans.
Meanwhile, those new to the program, those whose incomes are higher and Medicare recipients who do not receive Social Security will take the biggest hits on the increases. They can expect, on average, an increase in their Medicare Part B premiums of around $55 monthly or $650 monthly.
Social Security Adds to Woes
The Social Security Administration just announced that because of low inflation, its beneficiaries won’t be receiving a cost of living increase for 2015. Close to 70 percent of Social Security recipients are covered by the hold harmless clause that prevents their checks being reduced if the costs of Medicare premiums increase and their benefits do not. That means 30 percent of Social Security recipients will shoulder the cost increases for the full 100 percent.
Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell has reiterated the commitment of her agency to find ways to offset those increases, likely in the form of programs that can reduce the premium rises.
The Obama Administration is watching the developments and insists it’s committed to keeping the premiums affordable by “exploring all options”.
For now, there are no solutions and we’re well into the Medicare open enrollment.
To learn more about Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security benefits, contact our offices today. Together, we can find the best solutions for you and your family.