Medicare Posts 2019 Rates, Pinches High Earners
Medicare managers announced today that they will hold increases in Medicare Part B premiums to about 1.1% for most enrollees in 2019. For some high-income enrollees, however, premiums will rise 7.4%.
Medicare Part B is the component of the traditional Medicare program that covers physician services and hospital outpatient care.
Here’s a look at how the monthly Part B premiums will change, by annual income level:
The annual Medicare Part B deductible will increase 1.1%, to $185.
Another component of the traditional the Medicare program, Medicare Part A, covers inpatient hospital bills.
Medicare managers use payroll taxes to cover most of the cost of running the Medicare Part A program. Few Medicare Part A enrollees pay premiums for that coverage. But, for the enrollees who do have to pay premiums for Medicare Part A coverage, the full premium will increase 3.6%, to $437 per month.
The Medicare Part A deductible for inpatient hospital care will increase 1.8%, to $1,340.
Why are high earners paying so much more for Medicare Part B?
Congress has been increasing the share of Medicare costs that high earners pay in recent years.
For 2018, the top annual income category for Medicare Part B rate-setting purposes was for $160,000 and over for individuals, and for $320,000 and over for couples. Premiums from those Medicare Part B enrollees are supposed to cover 80% of their Part B claims.
In the Balanced Budget Act of 2018, Congress added a new annual income category: for individuals earning $500,000 or more and couples earning $750,000 or more. Premiums from Part B enrollees in that income category are supposed to cover 85% of those enrollees’ Part B claims.
Who do these rate increases actually affect?
Medicare now has about 60 million enrollees of all kinds, according to the CMS Medicare Enrollment Dashboard.
About 21 million are in Medicare Advantage plans and other plans with separate premium-setting processes.
About 38 million are in the traditional Medicare Part A, the Medicare Part B program, or both the Medicare Part A and the Medicare Part B programs. CMS refers to the traditional Medicare Part A-Medicare Part B program as Original Medicare. The rate increases have a direct effect on the Original Medicare enrollees’ costs.
How do the Medicare increases compare with the Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA)?
The Social Security Administration recently announced that the 2019 Social Security COLA will be 2.8%.
(Related: Social Security COLA for 2019: 2.8%)
That means the size of the COLA will be greater than the increase in Medicare premiums for all Medicare enrollees other than the highest-income Medicare Part B enrollees and the enrollees who pay the full cost of the Medicare Part A premiums.
Why should financial professionals care about Original Medicare premiums?
For consumers who already have traditional Medicare coverage, the Part A and Part B premiums may affect how much they have to spend on other insurance products and related products, such as Medicare supplement insurance coverage.
For retirement income planning clients, Medicare costs are something to factor into income needs calculations.
Because access to Medicare coverage is critical to all but the very wealthiest retirees, knowledge about how to get and keep eligibility for Medicare coverage on the most favorable possible terms is of keen interest to many consumers ages 50 and older. Some consumers may like to get information about that topic from their insurance agents, financial planners and other advisors.