Q: What are the Medicare Part B premium rates for 2015?
A: Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Burwell recently announced that next year's standard Medicare Part B monthly premium and deductible will remain the same as the past two years.
Medicare Part B covers physicians' services, outpatient hospital services, certain home health services, durable medical equipment and other items. For the approximately 49 million Americans enrolled in Medicare Part B, premiums and deductibles will remain unchanged in 2015 at $104.90 and $147, respectively. This leaves more of seniors' cost-of- living adjustment from Social Security in their pockets.
Since 2007, beneficiaries with higher incomes have paid higher Part B monthly premiums. These income-related monthly premium rates, which affect less than 5 percent of people with Medicare, also will remain the same as they were in 2014.
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services also announced that for the small number of beneficiaries who pay Medicare Part A monthly premiums, their monthly bill will drop $19 in 2015 to $407.
Medicare Part A covers costs for inpatient hospital, skilled nursing facility and some home health care services.
Although about 99 percent of Medicare beneficiaries do not pay a Part A premium since they have at least 40 quarters of Medicare-covered employment, enrollees 65 and older and certain people with disabilities who have fewer than 30 quarters of coverage pay a monthly premium to receive coverage under the plan. Beneficiaries who have between 30 and 39 quarters of coverage may buy into Part A at a reduced monthly premium rate,
$224 for 2015, which is a decrease of $10 from 2014.
The Medicare Part A deductible that beneficiaries pay when admitted to the hospital will be $1,260 in 2015, a modest increase of $44 from this year's $1,216 deductible.
The Part A deductible covers beneficiaries' share of costs for the first 60 days of Medicare-covered inpatient hospital care during a benefit period. Beneficiaries must pay an additional $315 per day for days 61 through 90 in 2015, and $630 per day for hospital stays beyond the 90th day.
For beneficiaries in skilled nursing facilities, the daily co-insurance for days 21 through 100 in a benefit period will be $157.50 in 2015, compared to $152.00 in 2014.
Q: I am 64, but I plan to keep working beyond my full retirement age of 66. What should I consider in deciding whether to start my benefits at 66 or wait until 70?
A: Here are some resources that will help you in planning for this important decision.
You can visit www.socialsecurity.gov/retire2/index.htm. This planner provides detailed information about Social Security retirement benefits and points out things you may want to consider as you prepare for the future.
We also have a Web page that provides information specifically for anyone who is interested in accruing the delayed retirement credits. It is located at http://ssa.gov/retire2/delayret.htm.
Oscar Garcia is a public affairs specialist with the Social Security Administration. You can direct your questions to him at: SSA, 411 Richland Hills Drive, San Antonio, TX, 78245. You also can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.