Reviewing Part B and Part D For 2012

Many Medicare beneficiaries receive premium-free Part A when they reach Medicare eligibility, but Medicare’s hospital insurance, which helps cover inpatient care in hospitals, skilled nursing facility, hospice, and home health care, may just not be enough. Beneficiaries who may face the expense of medically-necessary services like doctors’ services, outpatient care, home health services, and other medical services, including some preventive care, may choose to sign up for Medicare Part B, as well. In addition, beneficiaries may choose to enroll in Medicare Part D and pay Part D premium to obtain prescription drug coverage.

Because of the late enrollment penalty that most beneficiaries can incur if they do not sign up for Part B or Part D when they are first eligible, many beneficiaries choose to add Part B and Part D as soon as they reach eligibility. If you have Part B, you pay a Part B premium each month. If you have Part D, you pay a Part D premium each month. Most people will pay the standard premium amount for Part B and Part D, but Social Security will contact some people who have to pay more depending on their income. For Part D premium, you may qualify for extra help in paying for your Part D premium if you have limited income and resources. Contact Social Security to apply for extra help.

If you join a Medicare Advantage (MA) Plan, the plan will provide all of your Part A (Hospital Insurance) and Part B (Medical Insurance) coverage. Medicare Advantage Plans may offer additional benefits, such as vision, hearing, dental, and/or health and wellness programs, and many include Medicare prescription drug coverage (Part D). You will pay one monthly premium for the MA plan, in addition to your Part B and Part D premium.

Medicare Part B coverage is important to many beneficiaries, and the possibility of an increase in the Part B premium can cause them a great deal of anxiety. Thankfully, there is only a minor increase in the Medicare Part B premium for 2012.  According to Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services, the Part B premium is

“…rising by only $3.50 despite earlier projections of a much bigger jump…In addition, Medicare’s Part B deductible will actually fall by over $20, from $161 to $140.”[1]

More than making up for the increase in the Part B premium is a rise in Social Security benefits for 2012. According to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services,

“Social Security benefits are rising 3.6 percent to cover inflation – the same percent increase as Medicare’s premium.”[2]  This is good news for the many beneficiaries on a tight budget.

Use the opportunity of the Annual Election Period to review your budget and health care coverage needs in order to choose the Medicare health care coverage that meets all of your needs.



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