With Christmas behind us and the new year upon us, I’ve seen a lot of celebrating recently. I’m not sure what the excitement is all about. Certainly, I believe that Christmas is worth celebrating each year for the right reasons. All the “hoopla”, fireworks, and toasting of the new year, however, seems a bit much. Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy a party as much as the next fellow. In fact, at my age, when I make it to the next year, that in and of itself is a reason to celebrate. But, as I reflect on recent events of the past year, I tend to see little reason for partying all night long.
I can’t help but think about the tragedies, the shootings, and general unrest during 2017. It’s hard, even during the holidays, to pull positive stories from what we see in what has become the muck and mire of the daily news. However, this is not what this column is about. How have recent events specifically affected our generation?
When it comes to those of us in or approaching our “senior years”, some of the turmoil becomes personal. Many of our generation are struggling with huge insurance premiums because we haven’t turned 65 yet and are facing months and years of increasing rates and high deductibles. When we finally reach age 65, many of us find our Social Security and investments are shy of what we need to maintain our lifestyles.
I got agitated when I heard the “big announcement” that we got a raise in our Social Security “entitlements”. After years of little or no increase at all, we finally got a whopping 2% this year. Wow! Celebration time? I think not. I recently discovered that our Part B Medicare premiums are going up. Mine went up from$108.00/month to $134.00/month. I’m not good at percentages, but Kate tells me that’s 19.4%. I’m sure our supplemental rates are going up also.
Medicare Part A premiums don’t seem to be affected, but I wasn’t surprised to hear that the Medicare Part A deductible is going up $24.00 to $1,340.00. Most people don’t realize it, but this is not an annual deductible. This is a per hospital stay deductible with some specific exceptions. The daily room and board co-pay for the first 60 days remains at $0 per benefit period for the first 60 days. The co-pay for days 61-90 has increased from $329.00 per day to $335.00 per day. Days 91-150 are considered lifetime reserve days and the daily co-pay has increased from $658.00 to $670.00 per day. After 150 days, there are no payments from Medicare. That has not changed.
I recently learned that the Medicare Part B deductible is remaining at $183.00. Unlike the Part A deductible, the Part B deductible is a true annual deductible. Medicare still pays the 80% of what they approve of the Part B costs. There is a small increase of $30.00 on Medicare’s cap on physical and occupational therapy, from $1980.00 per year to $2010, but you can be sure therapy costs are going to increase also.
Doctors’ costs continue to increase, but their fees are still tightly regulated by Medicare, as to what they can charge. Have you noticed how short some of your doctor visits have become and how often you see a physician’s assistant instead of the doctor during your appointments? I wonder what other corners are being cut? I know that lab fees and other expenses that fall under Medicare Part B are experiencing the same type of squeeze. Prices continue to increase, but fees are not allowed to increase accordingly.
We’ve seen our prescription costs and co-pays increase, while most of us saw an increase in our Medicare Part D premiums.
Fear not! Our Social Security benefits just increased 2%! And what’s this #^*+# business calling our Social Security and Medicare benefits “entitlements”? We paid our money into Social Security and Medicare for many years! Things would be so much better if Congress hadn’t put these separate funds into the general fund years ago. After seeing what a fiasco occurred when the government stepped in and changed medical insurance for those under age 65 into the abomination we’re experiencing today, I’m worried. After seeing the long-term projections of the most recent tax bill, quite frankly, I’m gravely concerned.
As the National Debt continues to increase daily, I wonder who will come up with the bright idea to overhaul Medicare and Social Security to help pay the costs. I can’t even imagine what will happen to Medicare, when they begin making changes as they have with the medical insurance programs that people under 65 are facing today. Many people are just getting by with the Social Security checks they’re now receiving. These are hits that most of us would not be able to handle. Remain alert. I personally don’t think this is a time to celebrate.
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Orion Steen is a licensed agent and specializes in Medicare supplemental plans. He has been advising his clients on life and health insurance matters in Arizona for over 45 years. He can be reached for related questions by E-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, call toll-free 888-846-6891 or cell 623-846-6891.