Mr. KERRY. Mr. President, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, CMS, recently announced that nearly three-quarters of Medicare enrollees will see no increase in their Medicare Part B premium in 2011.
This group of beneficiaries is protected by a ``hold harmless'' provision in the law for years when there is no increase in Social Security checks. As a result, these beneficiaries will continue to pay the same monthly premium of $96.40 that they have paid since 2008.
Unfortunately, 27 percent of Medicare beneficiaries do not receive this ``hold-harmless'' protection and will see their monthly premiums disproportionately increase to $115.40 to shoulder the full load for those beneficiaries who are held harmless. This represents an increase of nearly 19 percent over the past two years with no cost of living adjustment to their retirement pensions or annuities.
This inequity in the law negatively affects new Medicare enrollees, low-income beneficiaries who receive Medicare and Medicaid, higher income enrollees who already pay higher premiums, and seniors who do not receive Social Security, such as federal, state, and local government retirees.
I believe we have a responsibility to protect all Medicare beneficiaries from premium increase, especially during these tough economic times when every penny counts. A premium increase for many seniors would mean choosing between food and medicine and that's a choice they should not have to make.
That is why today I am introducing the Medicare Premium Fairness Act. This legislation would restore fairness to our Medicare system and put money in the pockets of 12 million seniors and individuals with disabilities who desperately need it. It would correct this inequity in the law by applying the ``hold harmless'' provision to all Medicare beneficiaries, so that no enrollee will pay a monthly premium more than $96.40 in 2011.
The Medicare Premium Fairness Act is cosponsored by Senator Dodd and Senator Casey, both of whom have been integral to the development of this legislation. Our legislation is supported by twenty four organizations that represent retirees and senior citizens across the country. I would like to thank all of the number of organizations who have endorsed our legislation today, including the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, AFSCME, the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association, NARFE, and the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, NCPSSM.
Now is the time to protect all Medicare beneficiaries from substantial and unfair Part B premium increases next year. I look forward to working with my colleagues in the Senate to pass the Medicare Premium Fairness Act before the end of the year.