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Medicare Monday Highlights 2016 Changes

Each year, Medicare makes numerous changes to the benefits, charges, and access to care for Medicare beneficiaries. As in the past, the Colorado Gerontological Society will be sponsoring along with local hosts, sixteen Medicare Monday events throughout Colorado to educate older adults about the impact of these changes.

Medicare Monday will occur in Centennial, Northglenn, Grand Junction, Colorado Springs and Denver on October 19, 2015 from 9:30 am to 11:30 am. Follow-up sessions will be held on October 26, from 9:30 am to 11:30 am in Commerce City, Lakewood, Aurora and Alamosa. There will also be sessions in Westminster from 1:30 pm to 3:30 pm and in Salida from 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm. The last series of sessions will be held on November 2 from 9:30 am to 11:30 in Denver, Littleton (RiverPointe and Foothills Recreation Center), and Carbondale, as well as a session in Greeley from 1:30 pm to 3:30 pm.

First and foremost, the Social Security Trustees have announced there will not be a Cost of Living Adjustment (or COLA) for 2016. Although not official, Social Security beneficiaries will see a small, if any, increase in their Social Security benefits.

Speculation based on the Medicare Trustees report suggests that current Medicare beneficiaries will not see any changes in their Medicare Part B premiums or deductibles since the Social Security Trustees have announced no Cost of Living Adjustment for 2016.

However, the overall costs of operating the Medicare Part B program have increased. There is a “hold harmless” provision in the Medicare law which protects Social Security beneficiaries from having to pay more in increased Medicare Part B premiums than the amount of the Cost of Living Adjustment. This is beneficial for current Medicare beneficiaries.

Beneficiaries new to Medicare on January 1, 2016, however may face significant increases in Medicare Part B premiums and deductibles, as the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid and Congress struggle to meet the federal mandate to cover 25% of the Part B costs with Part B premiums and deductibles. Projections by some financial analysts suggest a more than 50% increase, thus possibly making the Part B premium as much or more than $150 per month. Similarly individuals with incomes over $85,000 are projected to experience even higher increases in their Part B premiums.

Other changes that will be highlighted at Medicare Monday are the new rules recently signed by President Barack Obama related to hospital status as an inpatient or outpatient status. Many beneficiaries are experiencing problems with durable medical equipment as well.

Experts will review the 2016 prescription drug plans that are available in Colorado, as well as share the changes in premiums, formularies, and co-pays based on tier levels. Expectations are that while premiums will not change much, there will be significant changes in co-payments for prescriptions depending on the tier level.

The Medicare Advantage Health Plans have announced some improvements for 2016. Annually there are changes in premiums, coverages, and co-pays. Knowing these changes helps Medicare beneficiaries to prepare for 2016 in the areas of out-of-pocket expenses, expanded benefits, and network providers. Representatives from the Health Plans attend Medicare Monday at selected locations to provide information for comparison shopping.

Many Medicare beneficiaries also qualify for financial assistance with Medicare Part B premiums, as well as prescription drug premiums and co-pays. Changes in eligibility for the Medicare Savings Program and Extra Help will be featured.

The Colorado Gerontological Society offers individual counseling for beneficiaries either by phone or in person, as well.

For more information about specific locations in each of these communities or to schedule an individual counseling appointment, call 303-333-3482 or 1-855-880-4777. More information is available at our Medicare Monday page. Reservations are suggested to ensure adequate seating, handouts, and free refreshments.

About the Author

Eileen Doherty

Eileen Doherty, MS has been the Executive Director of the Colorado Gerontological Society since 1982. She has more than 40 years of experience in education and training, advocacy, clinical practice, and research in the field of gerontology. She is an adjunct instructor at Fort Hays State University teaching non-profit management. She can be reached at 303-333-3482 or at doherty001@att.net.

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