Medicare releases new costs for 2017
Last year prices for Medicare held fairly steady, and of course, there was zero increase in your Social Security check. This year, the cost-of-living raise is tiny, at .03 percent (about $3 if your monthly benefit is $1,000). In fact, Part B premiums rose more than the COLA.
Here’s a summary of the figures that have been released so far.
Part A premiums (hospital, nursing, hospice, home health)
According to Medicare.gov, most people get Part A coverage free of cost. However if you buy it, the monthly cost in 2017 will be $413 per month (up from $411 in 2016).
Those who can get premium-free Part A at age 65:
• Already receive Social Security retirement benefits.
• Are eligible for Social Security but haven’t signed up yet.
• Or have Medicare-covered employment.
You may be automatically signed up for Parts A&B Medicare, and if so, you’ll receive a Medicare card in the mail three months before you turn 65. If not, you’ll need to sign up.
When are you eligible to sign up for Part A (and B)?
There’s a seven month window that begins three months before the month you turn 65, and stretches to four months after. So let’s say you turn 65 in June 2017. Your eligibility begins three months before the first day of June, on March 1, 2017. Then it runs through April, May, June, July, August, and ends on September 30, 2017.
Part A late enrollment penalty
If you don’t buy Part A when you first become eligible, your monthly premium when you do sign up may be 10 percent higher. You’ll have to pay the higher premium for twice the number of years you could have had Part A but didn’t sign up.
Part A deductible
In 2017 you’ll pay a deductible of $1,316 (up from $1,288 in 2016).
Part B Premiums (Medical Insurance)
The monthly Part B premium for most people who receive Social Security will average $109 per month in 2017 (up from $104.90 in 2016). For those not collecting Social Security benefits or subject to the conditions below, the standard Part B premium will be at least $134, depending on income. In 2017, Social Security will tell you the exact amount.
Generally you will pay the higher premium of $134 if:
• You enroll in Part B for the first time in 2017,
• You didn’t enroll in Parts B and D when you first became eligible and now must pay a monthly penalty (see below).
• You don’t collect Social Security benefits.
• You’re directly billed for Part B premiums, or
• If your income from two years prior (2015 for coverage in 2017) is $85,000 or less for a single person or $170,000 a married couple filing a joint return.
For high-income single people (income above $214,000 or married couples above $428,000) you’ll pay monthly premiums of $428.60
If you don’t sign up for Part B when you are first eligible, you may pay a late enrollment penalty for as long as you have the coverage. That’s 10 percent additional for each full 12-month period that you could’ve had the coverage but did not sign up. You may also have to wait until the next General Enrollment period (Jan. 1 to March 31) to sign up.
You can calculate your premium by going here: https://www.medicare.gov/eligibilitypremiumcalc/
Part B deductible and coinsurance
The Part B deductible is $183 in 2017 (up from $166 in 2016). Once that is met, you typically pay 20 percent of the Medicare-approved amount for most doctor services, outpatient therapy, and durable medical equipment.
Part D drug premiums
Part D Medicare prescription drug plan premium depends on your income. If your income is $85,000 or less you will only pay the premium set by your plan, but above that income level, you’ll pay an additional amount of $13.30 per month up to $76.20 per month. And your deductible will be $400 in 2017 (up from $360 in 2016), though some Medicare drug plans have no deductible.
Part D late enrollment penalty
Medicare figures your late enrollment penalty by how long you went without Part D or creditable prescription drug coverage. In 2017 the penalty is $35.63 times the number of full, uncovered months you didn’t have this coverage. (In 2016 the figure was $34.10 per uncovered month.)
Donut hole gap
If your plan includes a coverage gap, in 2017 you enter the gap once you and your plan have spent $3,700.
Once you’re in the gap you’ll pay no more than 40 percent in 2017 (down from 45 percent in 2016), if you buy your drugs at the pharmacy or through mail order.
While you are in the gap, Medicare will pay 49 percent for generic drugs, and you’ll pay the remaining 51 percent. If nothing else changes in future years, the amount you pay for generic drugs during the gap will continue to decrease each year till 2020 when it reaches 20 percent.
Contact for help
Remember, if you need help with your decisions about Medicare or when you are ready to change, call 800-MEDICARE to speak to a representative.
The Alaska Medicare Information Office statewide toll-free number is 1-800-478-6065.