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Social Security Benefits and Part B Premium

How Are Social Security Benefits and Part B Premium Changing?

I collect Social Security retirement benefits, and I have Original Medicare. I know that my Social Security award and my Medicare Part B premium have both changed between 2017 and 2018, but I don’t really understand what this means for me. Can you help me understand this?
-Darlene (Carson City, NV)

Dear Darlene,
The base premium for Medicare Part B (medical insurance) is $134 in 2018. This is the same as the base premium from 2017. People who paid the base premium of $134 in 2017 will pay the same amount, while most people who paid less will begin paying $134 per month.
About a quarter of people will not pay the full $134 Part B premium because their Social Security benefits did not increase enough in 2018 to cover the increase in the Part B premium. There is a rule that your Social Security benefits cannot decrease because of an increase in the Part B premium. This is known as the hold harmless provision. Most people have the Part B premium deducted from their Social Security benefits. Each year, the increase to the Part B premium cannot be greater than the cost of living adjustment (COLA); otherwise, a person’s Social Security award amount would go down once the Part B premium is deducted. People in this situation pay a lower premium than the standard premium so that their Social Security benefits do not decrease. They pay a premium increase that is the same dollar amount as their cost of living adjustment.
This year, the cost of living adjustment is 2%, which is higher than in past years. If you did not pay $134 for Part B in 2017, part of all of your cost of living adjustment will go toward paying the increase to your Part B premium. This means that you may not see an increase to your social Security benefits once the Part B premium is deducted. You should look at your Social Security Statement for personalized information about your benefit and premium amount. Here are examples of how the 2% COLA can affect the Part B premium:

  • Tom’s social security income in 2017 was $1,500 and his Part B premium was $109. In 2018, Tom’s COLA will be 2% of $1,500, or $30. The increase in his Part B premium, from $109 to $134, is $25. Tom will not be affected by the hold harmless provision this year, so he will pay $134 for the Part B premium, and will see a net increase of $5 in his monthly Social Security earnings.
  • Magda’s social security income was $950 in 2017 and her Part B premium was $104. This year, the COLA will increase her Social Security award by $19. Magda’s premium will be raised by the dollar amount of her COLA, making it $123 in 2018. There will be no increase to Magda’s Social Security award once the Part B premium has been deducted.

Keep in mind, $134 is the standard premium for people with a yearly income below $85,000 for an individual ($170,000 for a married couple). If your income is higher than that, you may have to pay an income-related monthly adjustment amount, also known as IRMAA. If you would like to learn more about the IRMAA, including how to appeal your IRMAA if you believe it is incorrect, you can contact your State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP). Visit www.shiptacenter.org or call 877-839-2675 to contact your SHIP.

If you have limited income and assets, you might also be eligible for the Medicare Savings Program, which pays the Part B premium and, in some cases, the Part A premium if you have one, as well as Part A and B deductibles, copays, and coinsurances. Contact your local SHIP to learn more about Medicare Savings Program eligibility and to apply.





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The NIA also stresses that it is important to take good care of yourself following the loss of someone you care about. Grief can affect your physical health as well as your emotional health. Do your best to eat well, exercise, sleep enough, and participate in activities you enjoy. If you or someone you know is grieving, click here for information about further resources that might be available.





To find out what you can expect to pay for this year’s Medicare premiums, deductibles, and coinsurance for Medicare Parts A, B, and D as well as Medicare Advantage plans, download 2018 Medicare Costs, a free Medicare Interactive resource from the Medicare Rights Center.

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