Medicare fee hike adds urgency to open enrollment period

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The 2015 Medicare open enrollment period may be one of the most active in years as recipients digest a significant potential increase in fees.

A “hold harmless” provision of the Social Security Act, combined with a freeze in cost of living adjustments, could mean a 52% increase in Medicare rates for the approximately 15.6 million people currently accessing Medicare Part B.

Most Medicare recipients have their premiums deducted from Social Security and those payments are protected. If Medicare premiums rise, but Social Security benefits don’t, the government has to look elsewhere to make up the difference. The “hold harmless” provision protects recipients from having their payments reduced.

But, the money has to come from somewhere and that means a significant increase (at least $650 annually) for new beneficiaries, those with high incomes, and Medicare recipients who don’t get Social Security.

About 3.1 million participants would be subject to the rise because of their incomes. The projected increase for single individuals earning between $85,001 and $107,000—and couples earning $170,001 to $214,000— is $76.10 per month in 2016.

The increase also poses a threat to many state budgets, which would have to cover the rise in cost for nearly nine million lower-income Medicare beneficiaries.

As Congressional lawmakers wrestle with this conundrum, we encourage Medicare participants, and those weighing whether to begin taking Social Security, to use this open enrollment period to review their choices.

Beneficiaries can save an average of 31 percent by switching their Medicare insurance plans, according to research done by the Institute on Innovative Aging Policy and Practice.

If you have questions about regarding Medicare of Social Security, we can help. We have a dedicated insurance specialist, and Social Security experts on staff, who would be glad to sit down with you to make sure you are maximizing your earning potential and minimizing your fees.

Contact us today to set up an appointment. When and how to begin your Social Security payments are decisions that are critical to your retirement. Don’t make them without all of the information you’ll need.