WASHINGTON (AP) - The monthly premium for the elderly and disabled participating in Medicare will hold steady at $96.40 next year. It's the first time since 2000 that the charge for health coverage is not increasing.
Premiums usually go up to reflect higher costs and demand for care that are projected in the coming year. Such increases will most certainly occur in 2009, but they will be offset when calculating the premiums by an adequate reserve in the Medicare Part B trust fund account. That reserve gained $9.3 billion earlier this year after officials discovered that money was being inadvertently drawn from Medicare Part B to cover certain hospice benefits.
The monthly premium for Medicare Part B covers a portion of the costs for physician services, home health and the purchase of certain medical equipment, such as wheelchairs and oxygen machines. The deductible for those services will also hold steady next year at $135. That's the amount beneficiaries pay before their insurance coverage will kick in.
Health care costs have been rising much more quickly than overall inflation over the years. That trend indicates this year's break for beneficiaries is likely a blip.
"In the future, we're going to have to go back to raising the premiums to match the increase in expenditures," said Richard Foster, chief actuary at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)