News Releases

Medicare Part B Premiums and Deductibles Set for Dramatic Rise Next Year Without Congressional Action
 
Bill Would Keep Premiums and Deductibles Affordable for Seniors in Washington State

 

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) joined Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-OR), and Senate Democrats in introducing legislation that would protect Medicare beneficiaries and states from a sharp rise in Part B premiums and deductibles in 2016. The legislation, the “Protecting Medicare Beneficiaries Act of 2015,” ensures that Medicare premiums and deductibles will not increase in 2016.

 

“I’m proud to be pushing for legislation that would protect 722,000 Medicare beneficiaries in Washington state, and millions more across the country, from a sharp increase in their health care costs,” said Senator Murray. “Our seniors deserve a health care system that works for them and puts their needs first—and that means they shouldn’t have to worry about a spike in their health care costs next year. I’m going to be fighting hard for the Protecting Medicare Beneficiaries Act and I urge my colleagues to join me in getting this done for the families and communities we serve.”  

 

In the coming days, 2016 premiums and deductibles for Medicare Part B as well as the Cost-Of-Living Adjustment (COLA) for Social Security will be announced. Roughly 30% of Medicare beneficiaries, 15 million Americans, will face an unexpected 52% increase in monthly premiums because they are excluded from the rarely-used “hold-harmless” policy that occurs in years where there is a 0% COLA, leaving them to shoulder the entire increase in the Part B premiums.     

 

The legislation will hold 2016 premiums constant for the 30% group at the 2015 level ($104.90) and maintain the deductible for all beneficiaries at $147 (the 2015 threshold).

 

Bill text can be found here.

 

Current co-sponsors include Sens. Bennet, Brown, Cardin, Casey, Menendez, Nelson, Schumer and Stabenow.

 

Background

 

Medicare has a “hold-harmless” provision that, for about 70 percent of beneficiaries, ensures the dollar increase in the Part B premium cannot be more than the dollar increase of a beneficiary’s monthly Social Security benefit.  This is to ensure that beneficiaries will not have a reduction in their monthly Social Security benefit.

 

Certain beneficiary groups (about 30% of total beneficiaries) are statutorily excluded from the “hold-harmless” provision. Dual-eligibles, who are eligible for Medicare and Medicaid, make up two-thirds of this excluded group. State Medicaid programs are financially responsible for the entire increase for these individuals. Due to the increase, states may face budgetary challenges and forego other needed Medicaid services to pay the additional premiums.

 

Other groups not included in the “hold-harmless” provision include new beneficiaries, high-income beneficiaries, and Medicare beneficiaries who do not receive Social Security.