Casey: Protect Seniors from Medicare Premium Increases

WASHINGTON, DC—U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) joined Senators John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) and Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) today to introduce legislation to protect approximately 12 million seniors and individuals with disabilities who are scheduled to pay increased Medicare premiums next year.  

“Too many older Americans are already struggling to make ends meet,” Sen. Casey said.  “Increasing Medicare premiums when there has been no increase in Social Security payments will only make this problem worse.  The ‘hold harmless’ protections in current law should be expanded to protect Medicare recipients from having their costs go up when their Social Security has not.”

“We have a responsibility to protect all Medicare beneficiaries from unfair premium increases,” Sen. Kerry said. “Every penny counts right now, and twelve million seniors and individuals with disabilities are depending on us to restore fairness to the Medicare system. I look forward to working with my Senate colleagues to pass this legislation before the end of the year.”

“During these tough economic times, many of our seniors are in need of financial relief to help make ends meet and pay for their health care,” Sen. Dodd said. “Without a Social Security Cost-of-Living Adjustment increase, many of our country’s senior citizens will not be able afford an increase in their monthly Medicare Part B premiums. The Medicare Fairness Act would ensure that seniors across the country and in my state of Connecticut are protected against an increase in their monthly premiums and will continue to have access to high quality health care they can afford.”
"Under current law, some seniors are protected against increased premiums while others are not,” Sen. Bingaman said. “This legislation fixes that unfair provision in the law, ensuring that all seniors are treated equally.  I hope we move quickly to approve this bill in the Senate."

This month the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced the Medicare premiums for 2011. The majority of Medicare beneficiaries will continue to pay the same $96.40 premium they have paid since 2008. However, 27 percent of Medicare beneficiaries (approximately 12 million Americans) will pay at least $225 more in premiums than the majority of beneficiaries.

For most beneficiaries, Medicare premiums will not rise due to a hold-harmless provision in the law that protects them in years when there is no increase in Social Security benefits. However, new Medicare enrollees, low-income Medicaid beneficiaries and seniors who do not receive Social Security are not protected by this hold harmless provision.  As a result, they will have their premiums disproportionately increased to shoulder the full load of the premium increases for the seniors who are protected.

The bill, called the Medicare Premium Fairness Act, will extend the current hold harmless policy equally to all Medicare enrollees.  Specifically, the monthly Part B premium would remain at $96.40 for all Medicare enrollees. No seniors, disabled or low-income families would see a decrease in their Social Security checks.  Similar legislation passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 406 to 18 in September 2009.  However, Republicans have used procedural maneuvers to block the passage of this legislation in the Senate.

The Medicare Premium Fairness Act is supported by twenty-five organizations that represent retirees and senior citizens across the country, listed below.

American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE)
American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME)
American Federation of Teachers (AFT), Program on Retirement and Retirees
American Foreign Service Association (AFSA)
American Postal Workers Union (APWU)
Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law
California Retired Teachers Association
Federally Employed Women (FEW)
Federal Managers Association (FMA)
International Association of Firefighters
National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association (NARFE)
National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC)
National Association of Postal Supervisors
National Association of Postmasters of the United States (NAPUS)
National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare (NCPSSM)
National Education Association (NEA)
National Postal Mail Handlers Union (NPMHU)
National Senior Citizens Law Center
National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU)
Professional Aviation Safety Specialists (PASS)
Professional Managers Association (PMA)
Retired State, County & Municipal Employees Association of Massachusetts (RSCMEAM)
Senior Executives Association (SEA)
The Center for Medicare Advocacy
The Committee for Social Security Fairness