Update: Under a tentative budget agreement, Medicare’s Part B premiums for roughly 15 million people will increase from the current rate of $104.90 per month to $120 per month next year, plus a $3 surcharge, instead of $159.30 per month that was originally scheduled. This is better, but not good enough because there should be no increase at all for Medicare Part B beneficiaries, who have opted to wait until they receive their Social Security benefits, as explained in the article below.
A few million seniors who are enrolled in Medicare Part B will soon see their premiums increase by 52%, which, for most of them, means that their monthly premium will go from $104.90 to $159.30. Their annual deductibles will also increase from $147 to $223. Part B covers doctors’ services, outpatient hospital services, and some other items. Because the cost of these services increased more than anticipated last year, congress has decided to increase premiums next year. By law, congress cannot raise Part D premiums for those already receiving Social Security, which includes 70% of all beneficiaries, because there will be no cost of living adjustment to the Social Security benefits next year. So, congress has targeted other Part D participants for premium hikes regardless if it is fair or makes any sense.
One group of Medicare beneficiaries affected by the increase are those who are eligible for Social Security, but opted to delay receiving their benefits. These seniors will be penalized by the government simply because their Part B premiums are not being deducted directly from Social Security checks; instead, they pay their premiums by check or credit card every quarter when they receive an invoice from the Social Security Administration.
One may ask: Why is the method of payment being used to determine whether one’s premium will go up? What’s the difference whether someone pays their Medicare Part B premium by check, by credit card, or by having it deducted off the top of their Social Security monthly benefit? Money is money. It’s like being charged an additional 52% at a store checkout counter if you decide to use a check or credit card instead of cash.
It’s hard to explain what congress was thinking, or if they were thinking at all, when they passed a bill that made an increase in Medicare Part B premiums contingent on how premiums are paid. It makes no sense and is grossly unfair. Perhaps, congress assumed that seniors on Medicare, who wait to get their social security checks, must be wealthy and, therefore, can afford to pay higher premiums. If so, congress made a serious miscalculation. Many seniors opt to wait because the longer they delay receiving Social Security payments, the higher their benefit will be, even though it might fiscally challenging for them to do so. This is particularly true for someone with a younger spouse. The elder partner might decide to wait in order to ensure that his spouse gets the most out of Social Security later on.
In fact, the Social Security Administration encourages people to wait as long as they can before drawing Social Security benefits by showing how much more they will receive if they wait. Consequently, many seniors wait and make due with less until they reach 70 years of age. For many it’s a struggle, but worth it if they live well into old age. Unfortunately, millions of people are going to be sucker-punched by the government which enticed them to be patient. Their reward will be a $54.40 monthly Medicare Part B premium increase. The increase also applies to new Part B beneficiaries. This disdain for seniors is consistent with the Federal Reserve’s Zero Interest Rate Policy, where seniors have been getting next to nothing on their hard-earned bank deposits for almost seven years, while the wealthiest Americans are making windfall profits in the stock market compliments of the Fed.
Our elected officials fail to consider the ramifications of the laws they pass. But why should they? Congress has its own generous retirement plan in addition to Social Security. They have shown time and time again that they only care about themselves. For example, they passed Obamacare and foisted it on middle class Americans (those ineligible for big subsidies), who saw their premiums and their deductibles go through the roof. At the same time, congress and president made sure that they exempted themselves and their staff from the nasty repercussions.
It’s no wonder non-politicians like Donald Trump, Ben Carson, and Carly Fiorina are ahead in the polls and the approval rating of congress is in the toilet. Americans are sick and tired of bullshit politicians, who are oblivious of the harm they inflict on the people they are supposed to serve. It is particularly offensive when they try to balance the budget on the backs of the most vulnerable Americans for no good reason.