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final week of medicare enrollmentEven though we are knee deep in the 2017 AEP I thought I would take a quick moment to update all our Medicare recipients. Finally, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has announced that the Part B 2019 Premium for Medicare will remain at $134 a month.

Usually we hear rumors about changes before October every year so this does not come at a surprise. As usual, some of you will pay higher Part B premiums due to your income level. If you are new to Medicare, make sure you contact the social security office for clarification on what you will be required to pay.

Now let’s look at the Medicare outline that CMS finally has released regarding other costs such as co-pays and deductibles. The good news is that the Part B annual deductible will be unchanged at $183 a year. This is great news for Medicare recipients and for myself. Appointment after appointment I have been telling everyone that the Part B deductible will probably be the same for 2019 without any concrete evidence from CMS.

As a broker relaying this information can be quite challenging because most seniors hang on to every word you say. My mantra during this AEP has been “now don’t quote me but….” Unfortunately for us brokers, we need to explain these benefits during the craziest time of the year without confirmation from CMS. So today I am glad to say the deductible will not change for 2019.

Moving on to the hospital portion of Medicare, the Part A annual deductible will increase by $24 to $1,340 from $1,316. There is a separate deductible for every hospital stay, usually being separated by at least 60 days during a calendar year. Basically, if you have multiple hospital stays 60 days apart the deductible starts all over again. For those of you with medigap plans, you never even see this cost because your supplement covers the deductible. For those of you with Medicare Advantage plans you end up paying the co-pay associated with each hospital stay.

The Part A coinsurance charge for hospitalizations lasting from 61 to 90 days will increase by $6 to $335 a day in a benefit period; for lifetime reserve days linked to longer stays, it will rise $12 to $670 a day. Again, for those of you with medigap plans you are usually protected from these costs. For those of you who have Medicare HMO’s this is the time of year to reach out to a BGA agent to compare what you have and inquiring about protecting yourself from out of pocket hospital expenses.

As you know Medicare recipients are covered for skilled nursing facility care for the first 20 days with no out of pocket expenses, but with stays lasting from 21 to 100 days in a benefit period will increase by $3 to $167.50. Once again for those who purchased Medigap insurance are covered up to those 100 days. Not to go off on a rant here but there is a great policy called short-term care that will cover you for an extended period of time past those 100 days. The good news is these policies are very affordable. Every Medicare recipient owes it to themselves to inquire about this type of planning. Whether you receive the care at a facility or in the comfort of your own home you are covered under the benefits.

We are now in the final stretch drive of the 2017 AEP and we always get the last minute phone calls from seniors inquiring about change. Let me say if you haven’t inquired yet we don’t mind at all if you are one of the last minute calls. It is always in your best interest for the new year because it could save you hundreds if not thousands. When I say thousands, just ask anyone who has a Medicare Advantage plan and has had to receive chemo or radiation treatment. It could mean the difference in your retirement planning.


Joe Bachmeier is a co-founder of BGA Insurance Group

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BGA Insurance Group is licensed to help seniors in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Florida.