In 2013, the premium rate for Medicare Part B is $104.90, for most enrollees. The rate changes if your income is above $85,000 for an individual, or $170,000 for a couple. The Part B deductible is $147.00 in 2013. More info can be found at the Medicare.gov website.
In the work I do with people who receive VA benefits and are also eligible for Medicare Part B, I am often asked if they should enroll in Part B. “After all, it costs $99.90 a month (current rate), and if I have VA healthcare benefits and use the VA hospital system, do I really need it?” I am asked.
And the answer is, “No, you don’t have to, but” (and this is where the list starts):
- If you ever use medical services outside the VA system, Medicare Part B will help you cover those costs. VA covers services within the VA system.
- Delaying your initial enrollment for Medicare Part B can cost you in penalties. Monthly premiums increase 10 percent for each 12-month period a person is eligible but did not enroll. The longer one waits, the higher the premium gets.
- If the monthly premium for Medicare Part B is beyond your budget, you might want to look into your state’s Medicare Savings Program.
Two good phone numbers to have are Social Security: 1-800-772-1213, and VA Health Benefits: 1-877-222-8387. Representatives at these numbers can be very helpful in sorting through these questions.
Not a month goes by that I don’t have someone handing me a copy of their Medicare Summary Notice and asking me to help them decipher what it says. Needless to say, it is long, complicated and confusing. Often, the question I get is “Do I owe them any money?” While these notices are just notices, and not bills, I get concerned that people choose not to review them. I always remind people that getting these notices is a good chance to review the information to be sure it records procedures and physician appointments that actually happened. For some, I am the one who reviews the information to be sure of accurate billing. At least twice in the last year I discovered inaccurate billing. In these cases they did not amount to a different dollar amount, but it was still important to call and inform Medicare of the errors.
Now, in an effort to make the notice more consumer-friendly, and encourage members to review each notice to catch errors or possible fraud, Medicare has revised the notice, and beginning next year, will start using the new and improved notice for their 36 million beneficiaries. The new consumer-friendly format can be viewed at Medicare Summary Notice. Still long, especially for those with chronic health problems and frequent medical appointments, it should be easier to review and understand, and thereby identify and report any fraudulent activity.
The 2012 premium rates for Medicare Part B have been announced, and they will be lower than previously projected. For those whose 2010 income was less than $85,000, the monthly Part B premium will be $99.90 per month. For more info, go to www.medicare.gov.
Medicare has a program called “Extra Help” that can be a big savings for those who qualify. Medicare officials are estimating that approximately two million people qualify but have not applied. In order to get the benefit, one must apply. If eligible, the prescription savings can be significant.
Under the Extra help program, one qualifies with an income below $16,335 (single), or
$22,065 (married). Additionally, resources (excluding one’s home, cars and personal possessions) must be worth no more than $12,640 (single), or $25,260 (married).
Once enrolled, the savings are in the premiums, deductibles and low copayments for
drugs. If you know someone struggling with the cost of their medications, qualify on income, and they are enrolled in a Medicare Part D prescription plan, they can enroll online at the Social Security Website or call 1-800-772-1213.