Federal Budget Deal Contains Medicare Fix

Federal Budget Deal Contains Medicare Fix
US Senator Elizabeth Warren and Frank Valeri

Warren, Neal, Clark, McGovern and Tsongas Help Protect Retirees

OCTOBER 27, 2015: The federal government is about to come to the aid of public retirees who have been bracing for a major increase in Medicare Part B premiums for 2016.

Announced late Monday night, a bipartisan federal budget deal reached between Congressional Leadership and the White House contains language capping Medicare Part B premiums for those retirees not receiving Social Security benefits. Instead of skyrocketing to over $159 per month, Medicare Part B will be capped at $120 through 2016 for these retirees.

Some 70% of Medicare enrollees pay 25% of the total cost of Medicare Part B, while the federal government covers 75%. Federal law requires higher income retirees to pay a greater percentage of their Part B premium.

Retirees receiving Social Security benefits and enrolled in Medicare Part B prior to November 1, 2015 will see their monthly premium frozen at $104.90 (basic Medicare Part B premium).

For those retirees paying a higher Part B premium due to greater income levels, Part B premiums are capped at what they normally would have been in 2016 had a Social Security COLA been scheduled for 2016. Due to a flat Consumer Price Index (CPI), no Social Security COLA will be paid in 2016. This marks just the 3rd time in history where no COLA has been paid.

Federal law stipulates that in the event that a COLA is not paid under Social Security, existing Medicare enrollees paying the basic Part B premium through a withholding from Social Security will have their premium frozen at current levels.

“As word has spread that some retirees were facing a possible $45 a month increase in Part B costs our phones began ringing off the hook. Our members were shocked and fearful about covering increasingly high insurance costs,” said Legislative Director Shawn Duhamel. “Something needed to be done and we immediately got in touch with our Massachusetts Congressional Delegation, who helped get this problem resolved.”

For nearly a month, Association officials worked closely with the staff of US Senator Elizabeth Warren to help advance legislation in the Senate that would have held all retirees harmless for 2016.

Just last week, Association President Frank Valeri and Duhamel met with Warren. She signed onto S2148, filed by Senator Ron Wyden, which would freeze all Medicare Part B premiums for 2016.

“Fair is fair:  Public retirees and others who don't get Social Security shouldn't be targeted for a significant Medicare premium hike next year. I've cosponsored the Protecting Medicare Beneficiaries Act to stop this premium increase so that these Medicare beneficiaries are not forced to pay more for the health care coverage they are entitled to,” said Senator Warren.

In the House, Congresswoman Katherine Clark, a rising star within the ranks of the Democratic Leadership, took on the issue head on. Together with Representatives Richard Neal, James McGovern and Nikki Tsongas, Clark helped make a Medicare fix part of the House agenda for the budget compromise.

“We are very fortunate to have great federal representation from Massachusetts. Not only is our delegation responsive to our members’ concerns, but they also have the clout in Washington, D.C. to get things done,” comments Valeri. “Just hours after returning from a fact finding trip to Greece dealing with the Syrian refugee crisis, Senator Warren took the time to address what could have been a real financial crisis to public retirees. That speaks to the respect that all eleven members of our delegation have for pubic retirees.”