Thursday, August 25, 2016
The Washington Post has a fascinating piece about Wanda Witter's decades-long battle with the Social Security Administration. At the age of 80, Wanda's story appears to be one of success, after many years of living in shelters and on the streets of D.C..
At the shelters all those years, Witter tried to get someone to listen to her. She explained at different offices providing homeless services that those suitcases contained the evidence. She was owed money, lots of money, and she could prove it.
Witter is not a particularly warm or outgoing person. She isn’t rude, just direct. And suspicious of just about everyone. And obsessed with Social Security.
“They kept sending me to mental counselors. I wasn’t crazy. I wasn’t mentally ill,” she said.
With the help of the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless, Legal Counsel for the Elderly (LCE) and a dedicated, patient and persistent social worker, Julie Turner, it appears that Ms. Witter is now in her own apartment and will receive some $100,000 in back Social Security payments.
For the full story, read "'I Wasn't Crazy.' A Homeless Woman's Long War to Prove the Feds Owe Her $100,000."
Tuesday, August 23, 2016
This is a story of now you need it, now you don't. Social Security recently required that a person have a cellphone to use the online benefits services. The New York Times ran an article about this requirement that went into effect at the end of July, 2016. Social Security Now Requires Cellphone to Use Online Services explains that SSA makes it mandatory to have an access code sent by text to the recipient's cellphone. The article notes that this requirement "may create hurdles, however, especially for older Americans, who are less likely to use mobile phones. About 78 percent of people 65 and older own a cellphone, compared with 98 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds, according to 2015 data from the Pew Research Center." Still almost 80% of elders have a cell phone-a good number, but that doesn't mean that those with cellphones use text features. The article features a variety of complaints, including the lack of advance notice. The article includes some FAQs, as well as a link to a website on where to get help (at least it's a website, not a cellphone #).
Now for the now you don't part of this story. Recall the quote in the prior paragraph "may create hurdles".... So within two weeks of the regulation taking effect, Social Security has stopped it, for now. The New York Times ran a follow up story explaining the suspension:
After an outcry from older Americans, as well as a letter from two United States senators, the agency backed off the cellphone-based code requirement.
“Our aggressive implementation inconvenienced or restricted access to some of our account holders,” said a statement emailed by an agency spokesman, Mark Hinkle. “We are listening to the public’s concerns and are responding by temporarily rolling back this mandate.”
Note the use of the word "temporarily" because Social Security is continuing to increase security to protect beneficiaries' information and will "introduce alternative authentication options, in addition to texting, within the next six months." The FAQ for this article notes that beneficiaries can opt-in to text-verification now, it's just not a requirement.
Friday, August 19, 2016
We have all heard stories about SSA determining that a beneficiary is dead, when the beneficiary isn’t. Proving you are very much alive has to be a fun experience (just joking in case anyone from SSA is reading this blog). Usually the stories about someone being “SSA-dead” is limited to a person. The Washington Post recently ran a story about a group of beneficiaries being declared dead by SSA. Dead or alive? Social Security misclassified some explains “Social Security officials have discovered 90 cases in their records where the living were listed as deceased. That’s 90 “as of today,” Mark Hinkle, an SSA spokesman, said late Thursday. “We are not yet sure how many were in error.” The 90 are from a group of 19,000 cases.” Note that means more of the 19,000 may be “SSA-dead”.
There is some humor in all of this (the 90 of you declared SSA-dead, my sympathies (no pun intended folks--sympathies for the hassle) and really I’m not making light of your situation). “Ironically, the erroneous cases are from pilot projects in Virginia, North Dakota and South Dakota, designed “to enhance the quality of our death records,” Hinkle said. … Clearly, there is more work to be done on that point.”
Clearly this is no laughing matter if you are one of those declared dead-there are significant financial implications, including a loss of benefits. Plus other federal agencies get death info from SSA, so the impact is more widespread than just SSA. SSA is on it, and as for those other folks who may be SSA-dead and not know it, “SSA plans to send letters to the 19,000 people potentially affected with information on how to find out if the agency thinks they are dead and how to correct the record if that’s the case.”
I’m just saying, if you live in VA., ND or SD and get a letter from SSA in your mailbox, you may want to sit down before you open it…
Tuesday, July 5, 2016
Special and Supplemental Needs Trust To Be Highlighted At July 21-22 Elder Law Institute in Pennsylvania
In Pennsylvania each summer, one of the "must attend" events for elder law attorneys is the annual 2-day Elder Law Institute sponsored by the Pennsylvania Bar Institute. This year the program, in its 19th year, will take place on July 21-22. It's as much a brainstorming and strategic-thinking opportunity as it is a continuing legal education event. Every year a guest speaker highlights a "hot topic," and this year that speaker is Howard Krooks, CELA, CAP from Boca Raton, Florida. He will offer four sessions exploring Special Needs Trusts (SNTs), including an overview, drafting tips, funding rules and administration, including distributions and terminations.
Two of the most popular parts of the Institute occur at the beginning and the end, with Elder Law gurus Mariel Hazen and Rob Clofine kicking it off with their "Year in Review," covering the latest in cases, rule changes and pending developments on both a federal and state level. The solid informational bookend that closes the Institute is a candid Q & A session with officials from the Department of Human Services on how they look at legal issues affected by state Medicaid rules -- and this year that session is aptly titled "Dancing with the DHS Stars."
I admit I have missed this program -- but only twice -- and last year I felt the absence keenly, as I never quite felt "caught up" on the latest issues. So I'll be there, taking notes and even hosting a couple of sessions myself, one on the latest trends in senior housing including CCRCs, and a fun one with Dennis Pappas (and star "actor" Stan Vasiliadis) on ethics questions.
Here is a link to pricing and registration information. Just two weeks away!
July 5, 2016 in Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, Legal Practice/Practice Management, Medicaid, Medicare, Programs/CLEs, Property Management, Social Security, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations, Veterans | Permalink | Comments (0)
Wednesday, June 22, 2016
It's that time of the year! The Social Security Trustees and the Medicare Trustees released their 2016 reports. There is always a lot of information in these reports, but what everyone wants to know is when these programs are "running out" of money. According to the Social Security Trustees 2016 report, the SSDI and Retirement funds (combined) are "good" through 2034, although individually the SSDI fund isn't as robust, with its solvency at risk in 2023.
Here is an excerpt from the summary:
The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 was projected to postpone the depletion of Social Security Disability Insurance (DI) Trust Fund by six years, to 2022 from 2016, largely by temporarily reallocating a portion of the payroll tax rate from the Old Age and Survivors Insurance (OASI) Trust Fund to the DI Trust Fund. The effect of updated programmatic, demographic and economic data extends the DI Trust Fund reserve depletion date by an additional year, to the third quarter of 2023, in this year's report. While legislation is needed to address all of Social Security's financial imbalances, the need remains most pressing with respect to the program's disability insurance component.
The OASI and DI trust funds are by law separate entities. However, to summarize overall Social Security finances, the Trustees have traditionally emphasized the financial status of the hypothetical combined trust funds for OASI and DI. The combined funds satisfy the Trustees' test of short-range (ten-year) close actuarial balance. The Trustees project that the combined fund asset reserves at the beginning of each year will exceed that year's projected cost through 2028. However, the funds fail the test of long-range close actuarial balance.
The Trustees project that the combined trust funds will be depleted in 2034, the same year projected in last year's report....
The estimated depletion date for the HI trust fund is 2028, 2 years earlier than in last year’s report. As in past years, the Trustees have determined that the fund is not adequately financed over the next 10 years. HI tax income and expenditures are projected to be lower than last year’s estimates, mostly due to lower CPI assumptions. The impact on expenditures is mitigated by lower productivity increases.
Looking at the separate programs Part A (HI) and Part B (SMI) the picture for SMI is a bit better
The SMI trust fund is adequately financed over the next 10 years and beyond because premium income and general revenue income for Parts B and D are reset each year to cover expected costs and ensure a reserve for Part B contingencies. A hold-harmless provision restricts Part B premium increases for most beneficiaries in 2016; however, the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 requires a transfer of funds from the general fund to cover the premium income that is lost in 2016 as a result of the provision. In 2017 there may be a substantial increase in the Part B premium rate for some beneficiaries. (See sections II.F and III.C for further details.) ...
Tuesday, June 14, 2016
Justice in Aging's June, 2016 issue brief focuses on needed improvements to Social Security's Representative Payee program. How SSA Can Improve the Representative Payee Program to Protect Vulnerable Seniors explains the rep payee program, details steps SSA has taken to improve the program and makes recommendations generally as well as to specific parts of the rep payee program. General recommendations to improve the program overall include
Prepare for the increased need for representative payees by developing methods to recruit and retain eligible representative payees.
Provide more in-depth training, support, and resources for representative payees and field office personnel.
Promote the use of the supported decision making model to ensure that the capability determination process and resulting appointments promote autonomy and financial independence for as long as possible.
Ensure that third party monitoring and oversight of representative payees includes the appropriate level of oversight and protects older adults from financial abuse.
Specific portions of the program that are studied include the capability determination process, monitoring and oversight, actions against a misbehaving rep payee, monitoring of direct deposits, training rep payees and identifying those beneficiaries who need rep payees. The report concludes "[g]iven the history of misuse and lack of oversight within the program, SSA must make necessary reforms to prevent repetition of the often dehumanizing instances of fraud and misuse of funds."
Thursday, June 2, 2016
Periodically we post about an article on Social Security, and one of the hot topics of late is when to start drawing Social Security. Do you take Social Security early before you reach your full retirement age, do you wait until that magic number (66 for many) or do you delay taking Social Security to later, even age 70? When you start to claim your Social Security benefit does have ramifications. We have also seen articles about the future viability of the Social Security program.
The Wall Street Journal ran an article recently about a recently published paper on the topic. The article, Here’s How to Get More People to Delay Claiming Social Security offers a view of regarding making Social Security more viable.
Global aging paired with pension shortfalls have led many governments to raise retirement ages and cut benefits. But this approach tends to be unpopular, as demonstrated by loud protests we’ve seen over the last few years from Greece and France to Detroit and, soon, Puerto Rico.
The article explains that the authors offer this proposal to increase the solvency of Social Security by "replacing the current Social Security delayed retirement credit with a lump-sum payment would induce many people to voluntarily defer claiming their Social Security benefits, and many would work more."
In the article, the authors explain the study they conducted to see if their idea would have merit, and they explain that
What we learned from our study is that many people would be willing to claim later and work longer, if they can get the attractive partial buyout from Social Security. Additionally, many who had initially stated that they wanted their benefit as young as possible, were also most willing to delay and work longer when offered the partial buyout.
The authors explain their idea is designed to be "cost-neutral" thus not adding to the woes regarding Social Security's long term prospects. The authors also note that "incentivizing longer work lives could lead to better mental and physical health at older ages for many people, so there could be ample positive social benefits."
The authors' paper is published on SSRN. Will They Take the Money and Work? An Empirical Analysis of People's Willingness to Delay Claiming Social Security Benefits for a Lump Sum. Here is the abstract for the paper:
This paper investigates whether exchanging the Social Security delayed retirement credit, currently paid as an increase in lifetime annuity benefits, for a lump sum would induce later claiming and additional work. We show that people would voluntarily claim about half a year later if the lump sum were paid for claiming any time after the Early Retirement Age, and about two-thirds of a year later if the lump sum were paid only for those claiming after their Full Retirement Age. Overall, people will work one-third to one-half of the additional months, compared to the status quo. Those who would currently claim at the youngest ages are likely to be most responsive to the offer of a lump sum benefit.
Thursday, April 21, 2016
Someone asked me recently about "alternatives" for law students interested in helping older persons or disabled adults. I said, in essence, "figure out how to start and operate a cost-effective, soundly-managed, and reliable, nonprofit rep-payee organization in your community." (And understand that you won't make a fortune, but you can make a good living with a well-run nonprofit!)
In "Ways to Meet the Growing Need for Representative Payees," Justice in Aging recommends that the Social Security System partner with organizations, including attorney organizations, to establish a "sustainable program to help recruit representative payees who are reliable and suitable to perform all of the required duties" of a rep-payee for those receiving federal program benefits but who often are unable to manage the money soundly. In some instances they may have no easy access to reliable family or friends. The "unbefriended," who, in turn, may be vulnerable to those with bad intentions:
Aging demographics and the predicted increase in cognitive deficits and other chronic conditions are expected to create a dramatic need for representative payees. For many of these seniors, family members and friends may be unavailable to serve in this capacity. SSA should think broadly about the groups of people eligible to serve as payees and then create standards for appointment, require a more in-depth level of training, and increased accountability.
Justice in Aging closes by urging that SSA's "recruitment efforts should be geared towards eligible individuals with legal experience as well as other fields with relevant backgrounds, such as social workers and religious community leaders."
Monday, April 18, 2016
Pennsylvania lawmakers seem to be on a roll this month, following several months of log jam over the 2015-16 state budget. The legislature passed SB 879 on April 13, and Pennsylvania Governor Wolf has now signed the law, enabling creation of tax-exempt savings accounts to benefit people with qualified disabilities. From the Governor's Office:
The accounts can be used for a wide-range of disability-related expenses including health care, housing, and transportation without jeopardizing eligibility for important programs on which individuals with disabilities must often depend.
“My administration is committed to promoting and encouraging independence, community-based supports and services, and employment for individuals with a disability,” said Governor Wolf. “Pennsylvanians with disabilities can now achieve greater fiscal self-sufficiency, without the risk of impacting their eligibility for benefits. I am proud to sign this bill today and continue our work to help individuals with disabilities stay in their homes and communities.”
U.S. Senator Bob Casey led efforts to win Congressional passage of the federal ABLE Act, which authorized states to establish tax-exempt savings accounts modeled on section 529 of the Internal Revenue Code, which recognizes state-established savings programs to meet future college expenses. Pennsylvania Treasury has been administering the Pennsylvania 529 program since 1993 and will administer the ABLE Program.
From NDSS's list of states with "ABLE Legislation," it can be seen that Pennsylvania's action makes it approximately the 41st in the nation to "enable" Able. Over the weekend, Pennsylvania also became the 24th state to legalize medical marijuana.
A helpful summary of the use of ABLE accounts, along with other tools that may assist a broader range of ages, including special needs accounts, is provided by Pennsylvania Elder Law guru, Jeff Marshall, here.
Friday, March 11, 2016
From the most recent issue (issue No. 3) of Bifocal, the electronic journal published by the ABA Commission on Law and Aging, links to several interesting feature articles:
When lapses in memory or physical issues start to affect activities of a loved one's daily living, such as cooking, eating, bathing, or paying bills, it's time to evaluate their needs and living situation. As the affected loved one's care needs increase, attorneys can assist with drafting caregiving/personal care agreements.
To ensure that all beneficiaries can receive their payments and make proper use of funds, Congress has granted the Social Security Administration (SSA) the authority to appoint third parties, known as representative payees, to receive and manage payments when the beneficiary is unable to do so. With Alzheimer's disease and other cognitive impairments on the rise, more seniors find themselves unable to manage their own benefits. SSA is currently exploring additional ways to identify seniors who may be in need of a representative payee. When working with seniors or caring for loved ones, please be aware of the following information about the rep payee program to help identify seniors in need.
Emeritus pro bono practice rules can be effective tools for recruiting volunteer attorneys. Specifically, by reducing some of the licensing burdens for attorneys who agree to limit practice to pro bono only, these rules are designed to encourage pro bono service. Whether these rules are actually effective in encouraging pro bono service, however, is an empirical question. To answer that question, a short online survey was done in 2014 returning modest data. In 2015 the ABA Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service--in collaboration with the ABA Commission on Law and Aging--launched a project to collect more complete data on participation, the number of hours, and what recruitment methods appear to be most successful.
Tuesday, February 9, 2016
We have posted several times on how much one needs for retirement and whether folks are saving enough to have a financially secure retirement. An article in the Washington Post on January 12, 2016 features a new report from Fidelity Investments that shows savers need to get much more aggressive with saving for a financially secure retirement. How big your retirement fund should be at every age, according to one guide explains that Fidelity revised its guidelines at the end of last year using a more conservative return rate. Here is an example of their recommendation:
people save one times their salary by their 30th birthday. By the time they’re 35, savings should add up to double their annual pay. By 40, a retirement account should hold three times a person’s salary. The numbers keep growing, all the way to age 67, by which retirement savings should add up to 10 times a person’s pay.
The article notes that this guide may seem aggressive and intimidating to some, but emphasizes that it is just one guideline, and if nothing else, should be the catalyst to get people saving for retirement. Get out that piggy bank.....
Monday, February 8, 2016
Yes, another Social Security Scam is making the rounds. The AARP Fraud Watch Network alerted folks about a new scam that the FTC has discovered. According to the Fraud Watch explanation, people are being sent
an email with the subject line “Get Protected.” ... The email describes that the Social Security Administration (SSA) is supposedly offering great new features to help taxpayers protect their personal information and identities. It sounds so good that you may be tempted to click on the link provided — [don't do so] ...It’s a SCAM!
The scammers pose as SSA employees and to be even more authenticate-sounding, may even mention the “SAFE Act of 2015.” Of course, the email includes a link, and we all know what happens when one clicks on a link in a scam email....bad things.
Sunday, January 31, 2016
The Social Security Administration posted on its blog about a Social Security scam involving phishing. According to the post, the scam focuses on "protecting" yourself from identity theft and financial fraud. "The subject line says “Get Protected,” and the email talks about new features from the Social Security Administration (SSA) that can help taxpayers monitor their credit reports, and know about unauthorized use of their Social Security number. It even cites the IRS and the official-sounding “S.A.F.E Act 2015.” It sounds real, but it’s all made up." The post offers a couple of tips to suss out a scam. If the email ended up in your junk folder, it could be a scam. Also, mouse over the URL and see if it is really from SSA, or from a .com site instead.
Always remember-if in doubt, don't click on the link and don't provide personal information.
Wednesday, January 20, 2016
Are you teaching an elder law this semester? If so, and your students are interested in sample papers to help them think about approach, scope, organization and how to provide support for their thesis statements, I've found this batch of articles helpful, even though they are now almost 10 years "old."
The nine short articles by law students (including two former students from my own law school) were published in a student journal following a competition sponsored by the National Academy of Elder Law Attorney (NAELA) and are nicely introduced by my Blogging collaborator, Becky Morgan. They demonstrate an array of topics and writing styles, and thus are useful to discuss in a writing and research class. I'm sorry that the NAELA competition is no longer available to students, as was a very nice way for students to get further mileage from their classroom research on elder law topics, and helped encourage them to revise and polish drafts!
January 20, 2016 in Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Federal Cases, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, International, Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)
Friday, January 15, 2016
Recently, several attorneys pointed me to an interesting report on "Marital Biography, Social Security Receipt and Poverty," by sociology researchers at Bowling Green State University. The abstract explains:
Increasingly, older adults are unmarried, which could mean a larger share is at risk of economic disadvantage. Using data from the 2010 Health and Retirement Study, we chart the diverse range of marital biographies, capturing marital sequences and timing, of adults who are age eligible for Social Security and examine three indicators of economic well-being: Social Security receipt, Social Security benefit levels, and poverty status. . . . Among singles, economic well-being varies by marital biography and gender. Gray divorced and never-married women face considerable economic insecurity.
From the body of body of the study more information emerges about the phenomenon of "gray divorce," those occurring after age 50, which has "doubled since 1990 even though the overall U.S. divorce rate remains stable." The authors continue (with citations omitted here):
The timing of marital dissolution in the adult life course may have implications for postdivorce adjustment, including late life economic well-being. Divorce tends to be more normative at younger ages whereas widowhood becomes increasingly likely with age. From a life course perspective, the timing of an event can magnify or reduce its influence on well-being. Off-time events are associated with poorer outcomes than on-time events. Thus, divorce prior to age 50 may be less detrimental to economic well-being than divorce after age 50. Those who divorce earlier in adulthood have more time to recoup the financial losses divorce usually entails. In contrast, those who divorce later have fewer years of working life remaining and may not be able to fully recover economically from a gray divorce. Indeed, gray divorce appears to diminish wealth more than an earlier divorce. Similarly, widowhood prior to age 50 is an off-time event that is not a normative life course experience. Young widows are more likely to become poor compared with older widows. Couples tend to be overly optimistic about the likelihood they both will survive to an old age. Thus they may not have adequately planned for this unlikely possibility and ultimately may be less able to recover fully.
Ultimately, from their research it appears that comparatively higher rates of poverty are associated with unmarried status as you age, but, particularly for women, late-in-life divorce may further increase the likelihood of poverty.
Wednesday, January 6, 2016
SI 01130.740 Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Accounts was released December 18, 2015. The POMS has six sections, including an explanation of ABLE accounts, definitions, what is excluded, what is countable, and verification/documentation of the account balances and of the distributions. Check it out! Oh and by the way, it's a good time to explain the POMS to your students. Check out SSA's explanation of the POMS on the POMS home page here.
Sunday, December 20, 2015
Back in October, as part of the Bipartisan Budget Act, Congress eliminated a couple of Social Security claiming strategies (§ 831) that have been getting a lot of press (one is known as "file and suspend", the other, "restricted application"). The New York Times ran an article on December 4, 2015 discussing these strategies that are being eliminated and what options remain for individuals planning for their retirement. The End of Social Security Loopholes: What Now? examines the role of life expectancy in deciding when to start collecting Social Security retirement benefits. But, "[f]iguring out the best strategy is difficult because few retirees know how long they will live." The article discusses the variables that go into deciding which strategy is best and notes that these are not "one size fits all" decisions.
The Washington Post also ran an article about the elimination of these two claiming strategies and what that means for individuals planning for their retirement. As one Social Security strategy disappears, consider other smart options focuses on the elimination of the file and suspend strategy and offers 4 tips, including obtaining advice and preparing a budget.
Wednesday, November 11, 2015
I was reading a recent article in the New York Times on estimating longevity in the context of the Social Security Trust Fund. Your Kids Will Live Longer Than You Thought ran in the NY Times on November 10, 2015. The article discusses statistics and probabilities, explaining how life expectancies are calculated. Looking at the Social Security projections of life expectancy, the article notes that SSA is likely too conservative in their longevity projections.
The Technical Panel on Assumptions and Methods established by the Social Security Advisory Board, an independent government agency that advises Social Security’s trustees on matters including actuarial assumptions, says Social Security is systematically underestimating future declines in mortality rates, and therefore underestimating the likely life spans of young Americans.
So this is a good news-bad news scenario. Good news for those who get more years of life, bad news for Social Security. "[O]ne quirk of Social Security is that a piece of obvious good news (People will live longer than we thought!) is bad news from the narrow perspective of paying for retirement benefits (The government will have to pay benefits longer!)." So how to handle Social Security's too conservative projections? The Congressional Budget Office "tweaked" them by increasing them.
Wednesday, October 14, 2015
I'm always playing catch-up on my "must read" list, but fortunately, others keep me on task. One such article is Florida State Medicine and Law Professor Marshall Kapp's piece, inspired in part by Hendrik Hartog's 2012 book, Someday All This Will Be Yours.
In For Love, Legacy, Or Pay: Legal and Pecuniary Aspects of Family Caregiving, published by the Springer Journals of Case Management, Professor Kapp begins with this overview and note of caution about legal planning:
Most caregiving and companionship provided by family members and friends to elder individuals in home environments occurs because of the caregiver's feelings of ethical and emotional obligation and attachment. From a legal perspective, though, it might be ill-advised for an informal caregiver to admit to such a motivation.
He advises consideration of personal service or personal service agreements, explaining:
We must reject an analytically attractive and pure, but never really socially realistic, tendency to dichotomize the caregiver experience, recognizing instead that a person may simultaneously be both a family member, with the related emotional and ethical connotations of that label, and a business employee. Morality and materiality are not incompatible. Caregiving can be both an act of love and a marketable commodity bought and sold between non-strangers.
As Professor Kapp points out, if we as a society really wanted to encourage family caregiving without all too vague promises about future inheritances, we could go beyond mere tax credits and "instead use public funds to pay family caregivers directly."
It's that time of year...CMS releasing the 2016 figures for Medicare. For some beneficiaries, the amount of their Part B premiums and deductibles is going to be a big OUCH! The New York Times ran an editorial on October 10, 2015 on how the premiums and deductibles are calculated and what it means for some beneficiaries in 2016. The Unlucky Millions Paying More for Medicare explains
Under a 1997 law, premium payments must cover 25 percent of the projected per capita costs for Part B. The premiums, which can rise and fall from year to year, are usually deducted from beneficiaries’ Social Security payments each month. A “hold harmless” provision guarantees that for most people the dollar amount of a premium increase cannot be so big that they are left with a Social Security check that is less than that of the year before. The goal is to ensure that beneficiaries, most of whom have modest incomes, don’t have less money to live on.
Since there will be no Social Security COLA for 2016 but Part B premiums are set to rise, the impact is going to hit hard a certain group of beneficiaries:
The roughly 70 percent of beneficiaries who are “held harmless” will pay the same premium as last year. That means the increased cost will have to be made up by the other 30 percent, because of the rule that premiums must cover one-quarter of Part B costs. This group includes 2.8 million new enrollees, 1.6 million people who don’t collect Social Security benefits and 3.1 million higher-income beneficiaries.
How big a hit will this group take? A pretty big one. Consider this in dollar amounts.
The Part B premium has been just under $105 a month for three years, but it is projected to reach $159 in 2016 and then drop to $120 in 2017.
Similarly, the Part B deductible, which must be paid by everyone on Medicare (no one is “held harmless”), will rise from $147 in 2015 to $223 in 2016, before falling back to $169 in 2017. This will pose a particular burden to beneficiaries just above the poverty line who aren’t eligible for assistance from Medicaid in paying deductibles.
The editorial calls for action by Congress to resolve the way premiums are determined. But for now, OUCH!