Sunday, September 18, 2005
According to federal officials, Medicare monthly premiums for doctor visits and outpatient care will jump next year from $78.20 to $88.50, federal officials announced September 16th. Knight-Ridder describes further the increase and the reason behind it, reporting :
The 13.2 percent increase is lower than last year's record-high 17.4 percent spike, but nevertheless drains more cash from the Social Security checks of Americans 65 and older, from which Medicare premiums typically are drawn.
The premium hike will offset higher program spending that's due to more intensive patient care, said Herb Kuhn, the director of the Center for Medicare Management at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Included in that spending is more frequent use of hospital outpatient services, doctor visits, lab tests, imaging and other minor medical procedures.
"They're all up. They're all up substantially, and we're trying to understand how much value we're getting for that, and we just don't have a good handle on that," Kuhn said.
The higher premiums also will help shore up Medicare's Supplementary Medical Insurance trust fund, which pays a portion of physician and outpatient care. Legislation that Congress passed in recent years to increase what Medicare pays for physician services has left trust fund assets "below where we would normally like it to be," said Richard Foster, Medicare's chief actuary.
If Congress increases the physician payment level this year, Medicare's 2007 premiums for doctors' services probably will increase as well, Foster said.