Why Did My Medicare Part B Premium Increase This Year?

The standard Medicare Part B premium increased to $135.50 per month in 2019, up from $134 in 2018.

The premium went up even more for higher income earners who pay an income-related monthly adjustment amount (IRMAA), with the most expensive Part B premium increasing from $428.60 per month in 2018 to $460.50 per month in 2019.

This guide helps to explain why the Medicare Part B (medical insurance) premium typically will go up each year, as well as some ways you may be able to save on some of your out-of-pocket Medicare costs.

Doctor reviewing information with her patient

Does the Medicare Part B premium go up every year?

The Part B premium is hardly the only Medicare cost that will go up every year.

The Medicare Part A (hospital insurance) premium also increases annually for those who are required to pay it. Medicare Part A and Part B deductibles typically increase each year, as well.

Medicare Part B coinsurance costs tend to remain steady at 20 percent of the Medicare-approved amount for a medical service or item, but that 20 percent share can go up as related health care industry costs increase each year.

There are a number of contributing factors to why Medicare costs go up each year, such as:

  • As of 2019, close to 10,000 Americans become eligible for Medicare every single day.1

  • Americans are living longer, and therefore requiring more years of health care.

  • As the population ages, the ratio of employed workers (who support Medicare through taxes) to retirees (who receive the benefits from those taxes) continues to shrink.

  • The cost of health care continues to rise.

When you add it all up, you have fewer people paying Medicare taxes that support an increasing number of Medicare beneficiaries who are themselves living longer and being charged more for their care.

Increasing the Part B premium is one way that these rising costs are partially addressed.

How is Medicare paid for?

Approximately 27 percent of Medicare Part B funding in 2017 came from beneficiaries’ premiums. Nearly 71 percent of Part B funding in 2017 came from general revenue, which consists mostly of federal income taxes.

Increasing the Part B premium by only a small percentage for each beneficiary can raise tens of millions of dollars for the Medicare program.

What is the Medicare Hold Harmless Rule?

Your Medicare premiums aren’t the only thing that will go up each year: your Social Security benefit payment will typically also increase each year.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) uses the consumer price index for workers (CPI-W) to make annual adjustments to benefit payment amounts. This is called the cost of living adjustment, or COLA, and is a way to help benefit payments keep up with the cost of living.

The cost of health care often rises faster than inflation, however. Fortunately, the “hold harmless” rule prevents Medicare premiums from increasing by a higher amount than the Social Security COLA.

The hold harmless rule does not apply to you, however, if:

  • This is your first year receiving Medicare Part B benefits
  • You are enrolled in a Medicare Savings Program (MSP)
  • You pay an IRMAA
  • You were enrolled in an MSP in 2018 but lost program coverage because your income increased

If you pay a Part B late enrollment penalty, your penalty cannot be waived as part of the hold harmless rule. In fact, your late enrollment penalty will increase according to how much the Part B premium will go up each year.

Are there ways to save on my Medicare out-of-pocket costs?

If you’re concerned about the rising cost of Medicare, you can consider a few options that may be able to help you save on your out-of-pocket Medicare costs:

  • Medicare Savings Programs are available to qualified Medicare beneficiaries who have limited incomes and financial resources. These programs can help cover specific Medicare premiums, deductibles and/or coinsurance costs.

  • Medicare Supplement Insurance plans (also called Medigap) can provide coverage for certain Medicare out-of-pocket expenses. While Medigap plans don’t cover the Part B premium, some plans may help cover the Medicare Part B deductible, copayments and other expenses.

  • Medicare Advantage plans (Medicare Part C) provide all the same benefits as Medicare Part A and Part B (Original Medicare).

    Most Medicare Advantage plans also offer extra benefits such as dental, vision and prescription drug coverage. You must still pay your Medicare Part B premium, but the money you can potentially save on other covered health care costs can help you better afford your Part B premium.

Compare Medicare Advantage plans in your area

If you have questions about you Part B premium or would like to learn more about how a Medicare Advantage plan can help you save on your health care costs, call to speak with a licensed insurance agent today.

 

Explore Medicare Advantage plan benefits in your area

Compare plans now

Or call TTY Users: 711 to speak with a licensed insurance agent. We accept calls 24/7!