As we ring in the New Year, it’s important to be aware of changes in Medicare and Social Security that may impact the seniors we serve.  Many of the changes, as we’ve come to expect, involve increases in deductibles and premiums, while others show a prospective decrease in out-of-pocket costs.

Although each participant’s situation is unique, here are a few of the changes we will see as the New Year gets underway:

  • New Medicare cards will be issued this year. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) will begin mailing the cards in April. There is no cost for the card, and there is nothing beneficiaries need to do – the cards will come automatically.  The primary change is that Medicare cards will no longer show users’ Social Security numbers.  They will instead be assigned random combinations of letters and numbers.  Be aware that scammers have already targeted seniors, telling them they must pay for the new card and asking for checking account or credit card information.
  • Medicare D prescription coverage will feature a five-dollar increase in initial deductibles while premiums will offer a slight dip for many participants. The initial coverage limit (the coverage offered before a user reaches the “donut hole”) is rising from $3,700 to $3,750. The impact of the “donut hole”, a coverage gap that begins when a user exhausts the initial coverage of $3,750 and ends when they reach $5,000, will be softened by a 65% discount on name-brand medications and 56% on generic medications. Fifty percent of the discount comes from drug manufacturers and the remaining 15% comes from Medicare.
  • A 2% cost-of-living increase will be posted for 66 million Social Security recipients – on average, this will put an extra $25.00 per month into the hands of most beneficiaries.
  • If you are on Medicare but not yet collecting Social Security benefits, your Part B monthly premium is expected to hold steady at $134.
  • Medicare beneficiaries with higher incomes will pay higher Part B and D premiums. More people will be subject to these surcharges in 2018 because the income thresholds have changed. For 2018, if you are an individual earning $133,500 a year or a couple earning $267,000 a year, for example, your premiums will increase. You can find the complete chart of Part B surcharges at https://www.medicare.gov/your-medicare-costs/part-b-costs/part-b-costs.html For Part D surcharges, click here: https://www.medicare.gov/part-d/costs/premiums/drug-plan-premiums.html
  • The number of available Medicare Advantage plans is increasing. In 2018, 99 percent of Medicare beneficiaries will have access to an MA plan, and 85 percent will be able to choose from among 10 or more MA plans.

The Social Security cost-of-living increase will be offset by Medicare premium increases for higher-wealth beneficiaries.  Visit https://www.Medicare.gov and https://www.ssa.gov/ for specific information to determine how individual clients might be impacted.