Tester sponsors bill to prevent Medicare rate hikes for Montana seniors

Without immediate action, 50,000 Montanans will see a 52 percent increase in Medicare Part B premiums

(U.S. Senate)-Senator Jon Tester is sponsoring legislation to protect 50,000 Montana seniors from experiencing dramatic Medicare Part B rate hikes next year.

Without legislative action, seniors who do not deduct Medicare premiums from their Social Security checks will see a whopping 52 percent increase in their Medicare Part B premiums.

“Most Montana seniors live on a fixed income and they can’t afford to see Medicare premiums go through the roof,” Tester said. “This bill protects seniors from harmful and unfair premium hikes while also ensuring they have access to affordable health care.”

Federal law prohibits Social Security beneficiaries from seeing a net decrease in their benefits from one year to the next. With no cost-of-living adjustment for Social Security in 2016, the 70 percent of Medicare beneficiaries who pay their premiums through automatic deductions from their Social Security checks cannot see their Medicare premiums increase next year because it would effectively reduce their net benefits.

That means the remaining 30 percent of Medicare beneficiaries who do not have their Medicare premiums deducted from Social Security checks must shoulder the entire cost of the increase in Medicare premiums. These Medicare beneficiaries include new Social Security enrollees, new Medicare enrollees, seniors who do not receive Social Security, and seniors dually enrolled in Medicare and Medicaid.

The National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association (NARFE) supports the Protecting Medicare Beneficiaries Act.

“NARFE applauds the support of Senator Tester and the 29 other sponsors of this commonsense solution to prevent a disproportionate, 50 percent increase in Medicare premiums,” said NARFE President Richard G. Thissen. “This is about more than just money, it’s about basic fairness. There is no reason why two people with the same income should pay different Medicare premiums based on whether the money is coming from a Social Security check or a checking account.”

Without this legislation 15 million seniors across the nation and 50,000 in Montana, will end up paying an additional $652.80 per year in Medicare Part B premiums in 2016.

Of the 50,000 there are 21,000 Montana seniors dually eligible for Medicare and Medicaid. Without Tester’s legislation, the State of Montana would have to spend an additional $13 million to cover their premium increases.

Medicare Part B covers the cost of outpatient health care services including doctors’ visits and lab work.