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Price may climb for Medicare next year - a lot

Some anticipate a 22 percent increase in Part B premiums

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By Ana Veciana-Suarez, Miami Herald

If you’re new to Medicare, are considered a high-income beneficiary or don’t have your Medicare premium deducted from a Social Security check, you might be in for sticker shock.

Some websites are predicting a 22 percent increase in Part B premiums for 30 percent of Medicare beneficiaries.

If Congress doesn’t step in, Medicare Trustees forecast Part B premiums to jump from $121.80 to $149 a month in January 2017.

Part B, also known as the Supplementary Medical Insurance program, pays most of the costs for physician, outpatient, some home health and preventive services.

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services won’t release its Medicare’s 2017 premium list until Oct. 1.

But some fear the hike may be a foregone conclusion because of the skyrocketing costs of health care and, strangely enough, the almost flat cost of living increases to Social Security.

Beneficiaries are expected to get a very modest cost-of-living adjustment, known as COLA, from Social Security next year. When this happens, a “hold harmless” provision prevents hikes in Medicare if those hikes are greater than the Social Security COLA, for about 70 percent of Medicare recipients.

Someone, however, has to pay rising Part B costs, which are based on how much the program needs to run itself, including a safety cushion for the unexpected.

In this case, those who aren’t protected by the hold-harmless clause — the other 30 percent — will be expected to subsidize the increasing cost of the program not shouldered by the rest.

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