Medicare Monday Introduces 2017 Prices and Benefits

~ By Eileen Doherty, MS ~

Denver CO – Each year the federal government makes changes to the Medicare. Many beneficiaries are advised to go through the process of determining if they are satisfied with their current coverage with a Medicare Supplement, a Medicare Advantage Plan and/or prescription drug coverage. Those new to Medicare face an even more daunting task.

The Colorado Gerontological Society is sponsoring Medicare Monday on October 17, 24, and 31, 2016 in sixteen locations throughout Colorado. Medicare Monday is an annual workshop designed to help individuals stay better informed and make necessary changes. The program includes information on the changes, updates and requirements for Medicare Parts A, B, C and D.

Open enrollment to change Medicare Advantage Plans and prescription drug coverage starts on October 15, 2016 and ends on December 7, 2016. Changes made during this time will be effective January 1, 2017.

In 2017, expectations are that individuals who are currently paying the Medicare Part B premium of $104 will see a $2 or $3 raise, if any. Although the Social Security Administration has not announced the exact amount of the Cost of Living Adjustment for 2017, it is expected to be small, if any. Individuals new to Medicare for the first time in 2017, individuals who are paying their Part B premium out-of-pocket and those who are receiving Medicaid can expect a significant increase in the Part B premium, possibly as high $159 per month. Estimates for an individual beneficiary who makes more than $85,000 adjusted gross income per year, the Medicare Part D monthly premium may increase as much as 25% or more.

Early projections suggest that the Part B annual deductible which is $166 this year may also increase by as much as 23% based on the Medicare Trustees report which was submitted to Congress in 2017.

Preliminary information on Medicare Advantage Plans in Colorado is limited. Benefit changes, co-payments and co-insurance rates in the individual market will be announced on October 1, 2016.

Medicare has announced changes for the 2017 Prescription Drug benefit. The annual deductible will increase to $400 per year. Beneficiaries will pay 25% of the cost of prescriptions for the next $3700 or approximately $825. Individuals who use more than $3700 per year in drugs will reach the coverage gap (or the donut hole). Beneficiaries will pay 51% of the cost of generic prescriptions and 40% of the cost of name brand prescriptions in the donut hole. Individuals whose prescription drug costs exceed $7,425 in 2017 will pay $3.30 for generics and $8.25 for name brand drugs.

While changes to the formularies are expected and co-payments for drugs that are on the upper tiers are expected to rise, it is expected that co-payments on the lower tier drugs will remain stable and/or see relatively low co-payments.

Low income seniors whose in come is less than $1,345/month ($1,813/month for couples)from all sources and who have less than $8,780 in assets ($13,930 for couples) which excludes the home, car, term life insurance policy, and irremovable burial policy can sign up for help paying for the Medicare Part B premium. These same individuals are also eligible for assistance paying for prescription drug costs. For help in applying for benefits, call1-855-293-6911.

Workshops will be held in Denver and the surrounding areas, Grand Junction, Greeley, Alamosa, Colorado Springs and Carbondale. Call 1-855-880-477 for a date and location nearest you or you can visit our website at Counselors are available to help with comparison shopping for prescription drug plans.

Refreshments will be served. If you would like to schedule an individual counseling appointment or to make a reservation for Medicare Monday, call1-855-880-4777.

Eileen Doherty

Eileen Doherty

Eileen Doherty, MS is the Executive Director of the Colorado Gerontological Society. Her areas of expertise include management and administration of nonprofit organizations, education and training on issues related to older adults, advocacy and policy development on senior issues, and clinical practice in working with seniors and families to manage their lives in the later years. She has been the Director of the Society since 1982. She teaches Nonprofit Management for Fort Hays State University.