What to know about Medicare in 2018

For Meth-Wick residents on Medicare, there are a few notable updates to keep an eye on over the coming year. The National Council on Aging and AARP tell us more:

New Medicare Cards

In April, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid will remove Social Security numbers from Medicare cards. You will be sent a new card with a new Medicare Beneficiary Identifier (MBI) number. Your new cards won’t change your coverage or benefits but it will help protect you against fraud and identity theft.

New cards will be sent to the address on file at the Social Security Administration so make sure your contact information is up to date at www.ssa.gov/myaccount or call 1-800-772-1213. The cards will be sent out in waves from April 2018 through April 2019 and Iowa residents shouldn’t expect theirs before June 2018.

When the new card arrives, begin using it right away and shred your old one.

REMINDER: Medicare will never ask you for personal or private information in order to receive your new card. Be suspicious of anyone requesting that kind of information.

Changing Costs

  • The standard Medicare Part B monthly premium and deductibles for 2018 won’t change from $134 (premium) and $183 (deductible). However, because of the size of the 2018 Social Security Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA), approximately 42% of Medicare beneficiaries who were held harmless against the rising annual costs of Medicare in past years will see an increase up to $134.
  • Beneficiaries at certain income levels will pay higher Part B and D premiums, specifically if your income is at or above $133,501 or if you’re married with a joint income above $267,001. Find the complete chart of surcharges on the Medicare website.
  • Medicare Part A inpatient hospital deductibles will increase in 2018, going up $24 to $1,340.
  • Part D prescription drug premiums are expected to decline slightly from $34.70 a month in 2017 to 33.50 a month in 2018.
  • The coverage gap, also known as the doughnut hole, will continue to narrow in 2018 as it nears closure in 2020. For 2018, once you have incurred $3,750 worth of drug costs, you’ll be in the coverage gap. At that point, you’ll pay 35 percent of the cost of brand-name drugs and 44 percent of generics. You’ll continue to pay those prices until the total cost of your drugs reaches $5,000. Once you’ve hit that limit, you’ll no longer be in the doughnut hole and you’ll pay no more than 5 percent of your drug costs for the rest of the year.

Special Enrollment Periods

  • Part B Equitable Relief – If you delayed enrolling in Medicare Part B so you could stay in an Affordable Care Act Marketplace Qualified Health Plan (QHP), you may be able to enroll in Medicare Part B without penalty or with a reduced late enrollment penalty. You may be eligible for this equitable relief if you are enrolled in a QHP and you are enrolled in a premium-free Part A, AND your initial enrollment period (IEP) began April 1, 2013 or later OR if you were notified of retroactive premium-free Part A on October 2, 2013 or later. You have until Sept. 30, 2018 to request equitable relief from the Social Security Administration.
  • Changes Based on Star Rating – Medicare uses a star rating system to measure how Medicare Advantage and Part D plans perform. You can switch to a five-star rated Medicare Advantage Plan, Medicare Cost Plan, or Part D plan (if one is available in your area) once per year outside of annual open enrollment (Dec. 8 – Nov. 30). People in consistently low-performing Medicare Advantage or Part D plans (lower than three-star for three consecutive years) can request a Special Enrollment Period to enroll in a higher star rated plan throughout the year.

If you have questions about changes in your Medicare coverage, we are here to help. Contact Cindy Robertson at 297-8646 with any concerns.

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