What's new in Medicare for 2018
January 1, 2018
Some of the costs for Medicare will hold steady in 2018 and others will see some increase.
Medicare Part A
Also known as Hospital Insurance, Part A covers in-patient hospital care, skilled nursing facility care, skilled home health care and hospice care.
Premiums. Most people pay no monthly premium for Part A because they have 40 credits on file with Social Security by paying FICA taxes through their employment. However, some people will pay for Part A. If you have between 30 and 40 credits, you will pay $232 per month in 2018 (an increase from $227 in 2017). If you have less than 30 credits, the cost will be $422 per month (an increase from $413 in 2017).
Penalty alert. If you don’t purchase Part A when it becomes available to you and you don’t have employer related coverage, you will be assessed a penalty of 10 percent for each 12-month period you were not covered. This penalty will last twice the number of years that you declined to enroll.
Part A deductible. The deductible for Part A will increase from $1,316 in 2017 to $1,340 in 2018.
Coinsurances. The coinsurance for days 61 through 90 will increase from $329 to $335, and for days 91 through 150 (lifetime reserve days) will increase from $658 to $670. The skilled nursing facility coinsurance will increase from $164.50 to $167.50.
If you are unable to afford Part A, you may qualify for an assistance program from your state. Contact the Medicare Information Office at 1-800-478-6065 for more information.
Medicare Part B
Also referred to as Medicare Insurance, Part B covers a wide variety of out-patient services including doctor visits, durable medical equipment, diagnostic tests and preventive screenings. Everyone pays a premium for Part B.
The standard Part B premium will be $134 for most people, remaining the same as it was in 2017. However, the premium for Part B may be less for some people affected by the “hold harmless” rule. This applies to those who received no cost of living increase (COLA) from Social Security for the past year or two. This premium amount does not include penalties for late enrollment (10% for every 12 months you did not have Part B and were not covered by employer related insurance) and income related monthly adjustments (IRMAA) who had higher incomes.
If you cannot afford your Part B premium, you may qualify for assistance from the State of Alaska.
The Part B Deductible will remain at $183 and the co-insurance will hold steady at 20% for medically necessary services and products.
Part C Medicare Advantage Plans:
Note: There are no Public Part C plans available in Alaska at this time. The premiums for these plans vary by plan.
Part D Prescription Drug Coverage Premiums
The premiums for Part D vary by plan. The lowest cost premium in Alaska for 2018 is $20.40 and the highest cost premium is $95.60. There are 19 plans available in 2018 and the plan that is best for a beneficiary is driven by what specific medications they take and what pharmacies they prefer to use. Assistance in choosing the best plan for you can be found by contacting the Medicare Information Office at 1-800-478-6065 or comparing plans online at https://www.medicare.gov/find-a-plan/questions/home.aspx.
The deductibles for Part D plans also varies, but has a cap in 2018 of $405, an increase from $400 in 2017.
These premiums do not include penalties for late enrollment or income-related monthly adjustments.
If you feel you cannot afford your Part B costs, you may qualify for assistance. Contact the Medicare Information Office for more information and screening.
New Medicare cards are coming
They will be arriving in your mailbox sometime between April 2018 and April 2019. There is no charge for the new cards. The new cards will not have a signature line, the beneficiary’s gender or their Social Security Number. They will have an 11-character alphanumeric random identification. This new identification will be a benefit in that if the card becomes lost or stolen, a new card with a new identification can be issued for the beneficiary.
Please be sure that Social Security has your most recent mailing address so the cards can be delivered. If you need to update your contact information with Social Security, contact them at http://www.ssa.gov/myaccount or 1-800-772-1213. The current cards can continue to be used until January 2020. Be sure to destroy your old card once the new card arrives. Beneficiaries can bring the new cards to either of the Anchorage Medicare Information Office locations and have the cards laminated for free.
Medicare information at your fingertips
If you would like to access more information about your Medicare costs or benefits, there are a number of resources available both locally and nationally.
For local assistance in Alaska:
You can contact the Medicare Information Office at 1-800-478-6065 or
visit the State of Alaska Medicare Information Office website at http://www.medicare.alaska.gov
You can set up your own confidential site at http://www.mymedicare.gov. This is a free, secure, personal website at which you can access your Medicare information.
Electronic Medicare Summary Notices (eMSNs) are an electronic version of your Medicare Summary Notice.
eHandbook. An electronic version of the “Medicare & You Handbook” that is sent via mail each year.
Nila Morgan is a Certified Medicare Counselor and Medicare Fraud Education coordinator who works at the Anchorage Senior Activity Center.