Medicare Part B premiums remaining level for 2014

Monthly premiums for Medicare Part B will remain stable in 2014 at $104.90 for most beneficiaries, the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced this week.

The premiums paid Medicare recipients with higher incomes — less than 5 percent of the beneficiaries — will also remain level in 2014.

The deductible for that portion of the program will also stay at its current level, $147. Medicare Part B covers physician and outpatient hospital services, as well as some home health care and durable medical equipment.

“For the third year in a row Medicare premium costs are meeting or beating expectations. Monthly Medicare premiums in 2013 are lower than the $109.10 they were projected to be,” wrote Jonathan Blum, principal deputy administrator for the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. “The year before, premium costs came in six dollars lower than the experts predicted. The last five years have been among the slowest periods of average Part B premium growth in the program’s history.”

The news, which comes during the open enrollment period for Medicare beneficiaries, is the latest in a series of announcements about rates in various parts of the program.

Here’s what’s happening in other parts of the Medicare alphabet:

Medicare Part A, which covers hospital and nursing home care, is available with no premium to people who have worked for at least 40 quarters of qualifying employment. That covers about 99 percent of beneficiaries, according to CMS. For those who pay a premium, the monthly rates are dropping by $15 to $426. People who worked between 30 and 39 quarters qualify for a reduced monthly premium. That rate will be $234 in 2014, down $9.

For beneficiaries who are admitted to the hospital, the Part A deductible is rising to $1,216 in 2014, up from $1,184 this year. The daily costs for hospital stays that last beyond 60 days are also rising.

Seniors and other Medicare beneficiaries can choose to participate in “original” Medicare with Part A and B coverage, or in a Medicare Advantage plan in which a private company provides those benefits. (Medicare Advantage is considered Medicare Part C.)

CMS announced earlier this year that the average 2014 Medicare Advantage premium was projected to increase by $1.64 to $32.60.

As for Medicare Part D, the prescription drug plan, CMS estimated that the average, basic plan’s premiums would be $31 per month in 2014. It’s been $30 for the past three years.

Although the open enrollment period for Medicare coincides with enrollment for new insurance plans made available through the health reform law, the two are separate. Medicare’s open enrollment runs through Dec. 7. The health insurance exchanges created to sell private insurance as part of the law commonly known as Obamacare are intended for people who do not qualify for Medicare, and don’t sell Medicare plans.

U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney said he has been hearing from many seniors concerned that their Medicare rates will increase dramatically in 2014, a myth he tries to dispel.

“This is something people follow like a box score,” he said, noting that Medicare costs make a big difference in how much money is deducted from seniors’ social security checks.

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