Questions about potential change to the Medicare Part B (Medical) premium started coming in once the 2013 Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) was announced.
As of today, Medicare premium and related Medicare information for 2013 is not yet available. When announced, the information will be at www.medicare.gov.
Medicare premiums are established differently than Social Security COLAs. The Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) is based on the percentage increase in the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W) from the third quarter of the last year a COLA was determined to the third quarter of the current year.
The CPI-W is determined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the Department of Labor. By law, it is the official measure used by the Social Security Administration to calculate cost-of-living adjustments (COLA). If there is no increase in the CPI-W Consumer Price Index, there can be no COLA. Based on that measure, monthly Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits will increase 1.7 percent in 2013.
The 1.7 percent COLA will begin with benefits that more than 56 million Social Security beneficiaries receive in January 2013. Increased payments to more than 8 million SSI beneficiaries will begin on December 31, 2012. Overall, benefits will increase by the COLA amount. Since the exact computation is more complex, some individual variation will occur.
Medicare Part B (Medical) premiums are established differently. Unlike the Social Security COLA, the CPI-W plays no part in the computation of the Medicare Part B premium.
The Medicare Part B premium changes each year, if necessary, so that the premium is sufficient to fund approximately 25 percent of the projected cost of the Part B program. Any premium change is effective in January. When announced, the information will be at www.medicare.gov.
On a different Medicare topic, remember that the Medicare Part D (Prescription Drug Coverage) open season is from October 15 to December 7, 2012. New plans begin January 1, 2013. Everyone currently enrolled in Medicare can purchase a Part D plan to help with prescription drug costs.
Unlike Medicare Part A (Hospital) or Part B (Medical), Part D (Prescription Drug Coverage) is purchased through private insurers. You shop for the plan that best suits your personal needs. Joining a Medicare prescription drug plan is voluntary, and participants pay an additional monthly premium for the coverage.
To compare plans, go to the Medicare website, www.medicare.gov, and select the Drug Coverage (Part D) link. Use the free Medicare Plan Finder to compare plans available in your state. Plan data for 2013 is already on the Medicare Plan Finder. The Medicare Part D (Prescription Drug Coverage) open season is from October 15 to December 7, 2012.