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Social Security Announces Benefit Increase for 2017

The Social Security Administration announced this week that there will be a Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) for Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits for more than 65 million Americans. The increase will be 0.3 percent and will start in January 2017. The intention of the increase is to help offset the rising cost of living for seniors.

Medicare premiums for 2017 have still not been announced. We will keep you posted as soon as they are.

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Medicare Premiums

 

The law requires an increase to your monthly Medicare Part B & D premiums if you have “higher Income”. The higher your income, the more you pay. Most people do not pay the higher premium but we want you to be aware that this might happen if you sell a home or stocks with large capital gains or take large distributions from your IRA accounts because it will increase your AGI. Your 2017 Medicare premium will be based on your Adjustable Gross Income (AGI) from your 2015 tax return. Each year the premium is re-evaluated based on your taxes. If you have a large windfall in one year you will only have to pay the increase for one year and then the premium will go back down.

The following is a table that shows the income amounts that were used in 2016:

Medicare Premiums Income Limits

The Social Security cost of living increase and Medicare premium increase have not been announced yet but is expected to be less than 1%. The open enrollment period to change your Medicare plan is from October 15-December 7.

It is also that time of year for Open Enrollment if you are employed with benefits. Make sure you review all the benefit options you have and choose what is right for you. Take advantage of Flexible Savings accounts for healthcare or childcare. Has your income increased – did you also increase your 401K contributions?

Note: You can dispute the increase if your income has decreased substantially. The number one reason is due to death of spouse or divorce. The Medicare website has a list of what reasons are acceptable and what you need to do to dispute the increase.

 

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Understanding Medicare

 

Medicare seems like a simple concept but just like social security, there are many rules and details that you should understand. First of all, the best place to go for answer is: https://www.medicare.gov  The website is very informative and where I go to if I need to research a Medicare question.

The major components of Medicare are Part A, B, C and D. Parts A, B and D combined are comparable to a PPO insurance plan while Part C is comparable to a HMO plan. You must sign up at age 65 to avoid a penalty but if you can prove that you were covered elsewhere the penalty is waived.

Part A is Hospital Insurance. It is designed to help cover the cost of your care in a hospital, rehab facility, and home health care for a limited period of 100 days per benefit period. There is no premium cost for Part A but there is a $1,288 deductible per year.

Part B is Medical Insurance. It covers doctor services, preventive and outpatient care. The premium cost for new enrollees is $121.80/month and your co-payment is normally 20% of the expenses incurred. The premium is deducted from your social security check but if you delay starting social security you must pay the premium directly to Medicare.

Part D is Prescription Drug coverage. This covers prescription drugs. This coverage is provided by an insurer that is approved by Medicare. To avoid a late penalty you should also sign up for this at the same time as part A & B. You can change the coverage in later years if the coverage is not enough.

Part C is medical insurance offered by private insurers. It is also known as Medicare Advantage. This is offered by HMO type insurers like Kaiser. Medicare deducts the cost of the insurance from your social security check and pays the insurer (e.g., Kaiser) for your benefit. Prescription drug coverage is normally covered as part of this plan too.

Next time, I will discuss medi-gap policies and Medicare premium amounts and what causes them to increase or decrease.

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