Congressman Phil Hare (D-IL) today voted for the Medicare Premium Fairness Act, legislation that will protect seniors and people with disabilities from increases in their 2010 Medicare Part B premiums.
"Many of our seniors on fixed incomes continue to bear the brunt of this recession," Hare said. "With a Social Security COLA unlikely next year, freezing Medicare premiums at current levels will help ensure our seniors do not fall even further behind."
Currently, 42 million seniors and people with disabilities are enrolled in Medicare Part B. The standard Part B premium for 2009 is $96.40 per month (higher for individuals with incomes over $85,000 or $170,000 for couples). By law, the premium is calculated each year to cover approximately 25 percent of the cost of the Medicare program.
Premiums would normally increase to roughly $103 next year to cover 25 percent of the program's cost. However, a current law "hold harmless" policy ensures that most seniors do not see a decrease in their Social Security checks if the Part B premium increase is projected to be greater than the increase in Social Security. Because of the recession, next year's Social Security cost of living adjustment (COLA) may be zero and checks will not increase; the current law "hold harmless" means that Part B premiums will not increase for 2010 for 73 percent of enrollees.
The other 27 percent of enrollees are not held harmless under current law. These include low-income individuals who are eligible for Medicare and Medicaid (18%, or 7.3 million beneficiaries), higher-income Medicare beneficiaries (5%, or 2.1 million beneficiaries), new Medicare enrollees (3% or 1.3 million beneficiaries) and enrollees whose Medicare premiums are not deducted from their Social Security checks (2%, or 850,000 beneficiaries). Because of the way the law is written, premiums for the enrollees who are not currently held harmless would be disproportionately increased to $110-$120 per month, unless Congress acts. This is the first time that such an interaction has occurred.
This bill would extend the current hold harmless policy to all Medicare enrollees, meaning that no seniors will see a decrease in their Social Security checks due to Medicare Part B premiums.
Hare has been fighting to protect Illinois seniors. He was an original cosponsor of legislation to provide eligible seniors with a one-time, $150 payment in lieu of a Social Security COLA. He has also been working to close the Medicare Part D doughnut hole which denies coverage to seniors who pay between $2,700 and $6,100 a year in prescriptions.