While retirees won’t be getting as much of an increase in their Social Security checks in 2020, the Part B premium, is expected to go up considerably more than it did this year. In 2019, most beneficiaries paid $1.50 per month more than in 2018. In 2020, however, the Medicare Trustees have forecast that Part B premiums will increase from $135.50 to $144.30 per month — $8.80 per month more—an increase of 6.5%. That’s four times faster than the COLA.
Consequently, Social Security recipients with the lowest benefits may not see much of an increase at all after Medicare Part B premiums are deducted. Those with benefits of about $550 or less are at risk of seeing the Part B premiums consume their entire COLA, leaving nothing extra left over to deal with other rising costs.
But this doesn’t necessarily mean that the rising Part B premium would reduce an individual’s net Social Security benefits next year. Due to a special provision of law known as the Social Security “hold harmless” provision, the Medicare Part B premium is adjusted to prevent an overall reduction in Social Security benefits from December of the previous year. The provision only applies to about 70% of all Medicare beneficiaries, however, and does not protect people whose overall income is so low that their Medicare Part B premium is paid by state Medicaid programs, and individuals with incomes above $85,000 or married couples with incomes above $175,000.
In addition, the hold harmless provision does not apply to the premiums of Medigap supplements, Medicare Advantage, or Part D plans. Any increase in those premiums would lower the amount of Social Security benefits left to deal with other rising costs.
Do you have a low benefit and think you may be affected by hold harmless? TSCL would like to hear from you! Contact us at www.SeniorsLeague.org.