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Legislative Updates

Medicare ‘hold harmless’ bill introduced in the House

On Dec. 2, Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV) introduced legislation “to amend Title XVIII of the Social Security Act to limit Medicare Part B premium increases for 2017.” H.R. 6428 follows a recent report from the Medicare Trustees announcing Part B premiums will increase significantly for nearly 30 percent of beneficiaries. Medicare Part B covers physician services, outpatient hospital services, certain home health services, durable medical equipment and other items.

The increase stems from an announcement by the Social Security Administration (SSA) on Oct. 18 unveiling a 0.3 percent cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for Social Security benefits in 2017. As a result, Part B premiums are projected to rise by $4 for those who pay their premium using Social Security benefits (from $121.80 to $125.80). For those who do not pay premiums from their Social Security benefits or who are new, premiums are expected to increase by 10 percent (from $121.80 per month to $134).

A recent letter signed by 75 organizations, including NALC, urged lawmakers to intervene and decrease the projected premium hike. “We are deeply concerned by the projected Part B premium and deductible increases, most notably for current and newly eligible beneficiaries living on low and fixed incomes,” the letter stated.

“Newly enrolled Medicare beneficiaries, those not collecting Social Security benefits—many of whom are retired public servants—and state Medicaid programs should not be expected to carry the burden of paying for increased costs in Part B through higher premiums and cost sharing," the letter stated.

Under H.R. 6428, premiums would have been capped to a $4 increase. Unfortunately, Congress departed before taking action on the legislation and no companion was introduced in the Senate.

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