Medicare is the de facto healthcare for most retirees. You are eligible when you turn 65. While most people like the program, it is quite complex and everything from baseline premiums to supplemental coverage and other details can change from year to year.
The changes made thus far offer somewhat good news to retirees. However, the future of this program may be in flux.
Medicare Part A covers care in hospitals and usually short term assisted care in nursing homes or in your own home. The changes to premiums, deductibles and copayments are relatively modest. According to Medicare.gov:
The standard Medicare Part B premium has gone from $121.80 in 2016 to $134 in 2017. However, your actual cost for this coverage will depend on your income, if this is your first year being covered or if you have Medicaid.
Your baseline cost will be reduced if you receive Social Security since the cost of living adjustment (COLA) for that benefit is lower than the increased costs of Medicare.
And, if your income is over $85,000 then your baseline cost goes up.
Medicare Part D covers prescription drugs. You can choose from a variety of plans from private insurers governed by Medicare. In 2017 there will be fewer options. Twenty two plans will be available, this is the lowest number of options since 2006. Each plan covers different drugs and have different premiums and deductibles. The maximum deductible for Part D will be $400 in 2017, up from $360.Feeling confused? It is always a good idea to assess your coverage whenever your health changes as well as during the open enrollment period each Fall.
The most important and dramatic change for Medicare in 2017 is whether or not it will still exist in 2018.
No one has a crystal ball and politics this year have been anything but predictable. However, Paul Ryan, the powerful Speaker of the House of Representatives has been very vocal about his desire to phase out or privatize Medicare. On the other hand, President Donald Trump promised on the campaign trail that Medicare would remain intact. And, Democrats are almost universally in favor of keeping Medicare.
So, what will happen?
Ryan wants to phase out Medicare at the same time he repeals the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare). These are priorities for the Republicans in Congress. So, we may know sooner rather than later about the future of the program.
However, Medicare has always been a largely popular benefit and many seniors struggle to cover existing out of pocket healthcare costs.
If you have an opinion about the future of this program, you can contact your Representative and Senators. Contact information can be found here: Congress.gov