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Congress plans to limit hike on Medicare Part B premiums

Millions of senior citizens will be hit with an increase in monthly premiums for Medicare Part B in January, but if Congress and Obama approve a new two-year federal budget plan, it will limit those increases. The proposed deal would also circumvent a 20 percent Social Security disability benefits reduction at the end of 2016 by diverting funds from the Old Age and Survivors Trust Fund.

The proposal also includes measures to prevent instances of fraud relating to disability benefits applications. The measure hopes to limit fraud by requiring applications to be certified by a physician. At this time, only some states require physician certification of disabilities in Social Security applications. Currently, 18 states do not require doctor certification of disability applications.

The House approved the budget deal with a 226-167 vote last Wednesday. Analysts expect the Senate will also approve the budget in a matter of days, and then it will be sent to President Obama to sign into law.

Approximately 52 million older Americans use Medicare, and approximately 70 percent of them have protection from premium hikes under Part B, which covers outpatient services, physician visits and medical equipment. Meanwhile, no cost of living increases will be included in next year's Social Security payments, so Social Security recipients will not receive Medicare premium increases.

Still, there are some senior citizens whose Part B premiums are not deducted out of their Social Security. Fifteen to 16 million people are in this situation, and 10 million of them are low income individuals who have their premiums paid through state Medicaid programs. The other six million would have gotten hit with 50 percent increases in their Medicaid Part B premiums; however, under the budget deal, these individuals' premium hikes will be limited to just 14 percent.

Minnesota residents who are having issues receiving or getting approved for Social Security benefits may want to speak with a qualified Social Security disability lawyer to learn about their legal rights and options.

Source: Poughkeepsie Journal, "Congress limits Medicare Part B premium hike," Brian J. Tumulty, Oct. 29, 2015

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