Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) today announced that he plans to introduce legislation later this month to protect approximately 12 million seniors and individuals with disabilities who will be charged higher Medicare premiums next year.
"We have a responsibility to protect all Medicare beneficiaries, especially during these tough economic times when every penny counts," Sen. Kerry said. "A premium increase for many seniors would mean choosing between food and medicine and that's a choice they should not have to make. This legislation will restore fairness to our Medicare system and put money in the pockets of families who desperately need it."
Today, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced the Medicare premiums for 2011. The majority of Medicare beneficiaries will continue to pay the same $96.40 premium they have paid since 2008. However, 27 percent of Medicare beneficiaries (approximately 12 million Americans) will pay at least $225 more in premiums annually than the majority of beneficiaries.
For most beneficiaries, Medicare premiums will not rise due to a hold-harmless provision in the law that protects them in years when there is no increase in Social Security benefits. However, new Medicare enrollees, low-income Medicaid beneficiaries and seniors who do not receive Social Security are not protected by this hold-harmless provision. As a result, they will have their premiums disproportionately increased to shoulder the full load of the premium increase for the seniors who are not affected.
Senator Kerry will introduce legislation during the lame duck session in mid-November. The "Medicare Premium Fairness Act" will extend the current hold-harmless policy to all Medicare enrollees locking in the monthly Part B premium at $96.40 for all Medicare enrollees. As a result, no seniors, disabled individuals or low-income families would see a decrease in their Social Security checks.
Similar legislation passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 406 to 18 in September 2009. To date, Republicans have used procedural maneuvers to block the passage of the House legislation in the Senate.