Not long ago, I had dinner with a group of friends from college. One of the big topics of conversation was Medicare, for which we will all be eligible in the next several years. (Farewell, callow youth!) One of the most-asked questions about Medicare was, “How much is it going to cost me?”
Like private health insurance, Medicare has premiums, deductibles and co-pays. These costs can — and often do — change from year to year. What you actually pay depends on your work history, income and inflation.
Only about 1 percent of people with Medicare pay a monthly premium for Medicare Part A, which covers inpatient hospitalization, skilled nursing care and some home health services. That’s because they paid Medicare paycheck deductions for 40 quarters or longer during their working lives.
However, most people pay a monthly premium for Medicare Part B, which covers doctor fees, outpatient treatment, durable medical equipment and other items. Part B premiums are rising this year, but for most people, the increase won’t be very much.
The law protects most seniors from Part B premium hikes if the cost-of-living adjustment in their Social Security benefit doesn’t go up in a given year. Since the Social Security COLA for 2017 will be 0.3 percent, about 70 percent of Medicare beneficiaries will pay an average Part B premium of $109 per month in 2017. That’s up from $104.90 for the past four years.
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