For millions of seniors, there’s a major hike in their Medicare Part B premiums in 2016. The worst part is it’s preventable; however, getting Congress to agree on anything these days is challenging at best and impossible at its worst. In this way, Americans are joined: it’s an unacceptable increase to those who can least afford it. And it’s a problem without a solution.
As Congress continues to bicker, lay blame and threaten yet another government shutdown, families around the nation are searching for ways to ensure their loved ones have the medications they need and the funds to offset the increase in premiums. There are those who insist both President Obama and Congress have a duty to prevent or at least reduce the planned Medicare premium hike and using taxpayer revenues to pay for it rather than putting the burden wholly on Medicare beneficiaries is acceptable in the short term. Protecting all Medicare beneficiaries from the increase could cost between $10 billion and $12 billion, though. It’s not likely to get past Congress. And White House spokeswoman Katie Hill has said, on behalf of the Obama Administration, “We share the goal of keeping Medicare’s premiums affordable, are exploring all options and appreciate the interest and ideas of members of Congress.”
For its part, AARP is coming out swinging. Nancy LeaMond, Executive Vice President and Chief Advocacy Officer for AARP, sent a letter to Congress that reads, in part, “AARP urges you to reduce and mitigate the impact of the sudden, sharp increases in the Part B premium and deductible as soon as possible. Ideally, all Medicare beneficiaries should be held-harmless in the face of no Social Security COLA adjustment,” she said in the letter.
The COLA Adjustment she’s referring to is the cost of living increase that’s typically given each year by Social Security. Due to little inflation, COLA won’t be forthcoming in 2016. This only further complicates the situation.
The million dollar question is can this hike be halted? To date, it appears it won’t be. Any agreement looks too farfetched and certainly not enough for both the White House and Congress to come together. Their budget battles are as heated as ever and a government shutdown looms as well.
The increases could be as high as 52 percent for some recipients and the absence of a Social Security COLA increase only adds to the trouble.
There’s talk of a special fund controlled by the Department of Health and Human Services. It’s unclear whether it could be an option, if it can be legally used to cover the Part B expenses and even if the agency has the authority to deploy those funds. For now, everyone is simply reiterating their commitment…even if that’s all they’re managing to do.