I now have the final savings total for VICAP (Virginia Insurance Counseling and Assistance Program) at the New River Valley Agency on Aging: $566,155.
As I noted in my last article, it is less than last year’s total but is still an impressive amount. It represents the difference between what clients will pay for their drugs in 2017 with new less-expensive drug plans and what they would have paid had they kept their 2016 Part D drug plans.
There has been some confusion among Medicare beneficiaries regarding what their premiums will be for Medicare Part B in 2017. Part B is the portion of Medicare that pays for services from health care providers, most preventive services, durable medical equipment, and supplies like diabetes test strips.
Because Social Security beneficiaries received a small increase in their monthly checks, the Part B premium increased for everyone but not to the same amount.
Recently the premium for Part B has been $104.90 for most beneficiaries although those with higher incomes paid more. The law regarding Part B premiums provides a ‘hold harmless’ clause that will not allow a premium increase to decrease a person’s Social Security check, from which most Part B premiums are deducted.
The cost of living increase was so low – .3 percent – that the overwhelming majority of beneficiaries will see only a modest increase from $104.90 to around $109. The bad news is that most beneficiaries will see little or nothing in the way of higher Social Security benefits in their checking accounts.
A Part B premium of $134 will apply to three groups of beneficiaries. The first group is those who will qualify for Medicare in 2017. The second group is those with low incomes whose Part B premiums are paid for them via Medicaid.
The beneficiaries themselves will not be paying the higher premium, but this provision will raise the costs to states in their Medicaid budgets.
The last group is those who qualified for Medicare at 65 but who have chosen not to receive Social Security benefits until later. Those with higher incomes ($85,000 for an individual and $170,000 for a couple) will pay an even higher premium based upon income.
Medicare service costs have also increased in 2017. The Part A deductible for hospital stays is now $1,316. Skilled nursing facilities are still covered totally by Part A for the first 20 days with days 21 through 100 costing beneficiaries $164.50 per day.
Beneficiaries pay all costs after day 100. The Part B deductible will be $183 in 2017. Medicare then covers 80 percent of the remaining costs, leaving 20 percent for the beneficiary to pay.
A Medicare Supplement or Medigap policy would help cover all or most of these costs, depending upon the plan selected.
If you need more information regarding Medicare costs or what Medicare Supplements cover, call the NRV Agency on Aging at 980-7720.