You Could Be Impacted by 2017 Medicare Changes 

Regardless of whether you are a current Medicare recipient or your eligibility is fast approaching, you should learn about the changes that Medicare is facing in the new year. Medicare, the national health program, is for U.S. residents ages 65 and older, those who are disabled, and individuals with end-stage kidney disease. A complicated insurance program, Medicare can have significant changes from one year to the next. Usually, the most significant changes either impact your out-of-pocket costs, your medical care, or both. This year you can expect to pay out higher insurance premiums, higher copays for services, and face higher deductibles. If you must undergo therapy, you will see new limitations on those services as the caps are changing. 

The Changes of Medicare Part B 

Some of the most obvious and more common changes to Medicare impact everyone. In this case, that involves higher premiums and an increased deductible. The average premium increase for Part B coverage is around $4 per month, which takes the average monthly premium up to $109. For those enrolled in Medicare already, that is a 4% price hike. During 2015, the Part B deductible was $147. It went up to $166 during 2016. Now, for 2017, it will further increase to $183. 

Medicare Part A Faces Changes as Well

If you have Medicare, you are enrolled in Part A. This coverage is designed to cover the costs of hospitalization. Most Medicare enrollees aren’t paying out-of-pocket for this coverage, but if you are one of the few who pays for this coverage you will see an increase here as well. If you have more than 30 quarters of work history but less than 40 quarters of work history, you will pay $1 more for premiums than you paid last year. If you have fewer than 30 quarters of work history, your premium is increasing $2 from last year’s rate as it will be $413 per month. 

Higher Costs for Prescription Drug Plans

If you have a stand-alone Part D prescription drug plan with Medicare, you will see an increase of around 9%. This increase will make the average about $42.10 per month during 2017 if you keep the same Part D plan you had last year. Premiums do vary from plan to plan, so you may want to know that the top 10 Part D prescription drug plans vary in monthly costs from $16.81 to $71.66. Last year, Part D plans had a maximum allowable deductible of $360, but that is going up to $400 this year. So, the deductible is increasing by 7%. 

Premiums for Medicare Advantage Plans See Decrease

There is some good news for those enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans. You can expect to see your premiums for coverage decrease about 4%. These premiums are paid in addition to your regular Medicare Part B premiums and usually average around $31.40 per month. Some extra services, such as dental and vision coverage, are often included among the extra benefits you receive from a Medicare Advantage plan. 

Cap on Therapy Services Sees an Increase 

The therapy cap for Medicare recipients is seeing an increase again this year. This cap is applicable to all forms of therapy, including outpatient therapy, speech-language therapy, occupational therapy, and physical therapy. The 2017 cap does include the 80% that is paid by Medicare as well as the patient copay. With an increase of 20%, the physical therapy and speech-language pathology combined cap is set at $1,980. Occupational therapy has its own cap of $1,980. After you have reached those caps, there is a process to qualify for medically necessary therapy with costs as high as $3,700. If you need therapy that exceeds $3,700 during the year, there is a manual review process in place to determine if you are approved. 

Always Keep Current on Medicare Updates and Changes

If you are a Medicare recipient, or you will be soon, you should stay current on any changes to the health insurance coverage. You should stay informed so you will know how your medical needs and your out-of-pocket costs are going to be impacted. Most changes do impact your costs, so you must be prepared for the additional expenses. To get more information about Medicare or your coverage, call 1-800-633-4227 or visit www.Medicare.gov

This article was written by the Outreach Team at Disability Benefits Help. They provide information about disability benefits and the application process. To learn more, please visit their website at http://www.disability-benefits-help.org  or by contacting them at help@ssd-help.org.

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