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  • Washington Highlights

    Wyden Introduces Bill to Block Part B Premium Spikes

    Len Marquez, Senior Director, Government Relations

    Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and twenty Democratic colleagues Oct. 7 introduced the Protecting Medicare Beneficiaries Act of 2015, legislation that would hold calendar year (CY) 2016 Medicare Part B premiums constant for the roughly 30 percent of beneficiaries potentially facing an estimated 50 percent increase in monthly premiums early next year.

    Medicare Part B 2016 premiums and deductibles and Social Security Cost-Of-Living Adjustments (COLA) are expected to be announced on Oct. 15. Due to a projected zero percent COLA increase for 2016, 30 percent of Medicare beneficiaries will face a 52 percent increase in monthly premiums. Medicare’s “hold-harmless” provision, which protects about 70 percent of beneficiaries, requires that increases in Part B premiums cannot outpace increases in a beneficiary’s Social Security COLA. 

    However, about 30 percent of beneficiaries are statutorily excluded from the provision, including new beneficiaries, dual-eligibles, high-income beneficiaries, and Medicare beneficiaries who do not receive Social Security. The bill would hold monthly premiums constant for the group at the 2015 level of roughly $105 and would maintain the deductible for all beneficiaries at $147 for calendar year 2016.

    Urging the importance of the legislation, Sen. Wyden said, “It is urgent that Congress take decisive action to ensure vulnerable Americans aren’t harmed by this archaic policy.” Sen. Wyden was joined by nine original cosponsors including: Sens. Bennet (D-Colo.), Brown (D-Ohio), Cardin (D-Md.), Casey (D-Pa.), Menendez (D-N.J.), Murray (D-Wash.), Nelson (D-Fla.), Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Stabenow (D-Calif.).