Summer is gone, the first of fall/winter holidays will be here in 10 days or so (Boo!) and that means it must be time to think about finances for 2012. Herewith an update for elders.
UPDATE: It was announced this morning that the 2012 Social Security COLA will be 3.6 percent.
SOCIAL SECURITY COLA
As I write this on Tuesday, it is expected that on Wednesday – today – the Social Security Administration will announce a cost-of-living-adjustment (COLA) to the SSA benefit. It is expected to be
about 3.5 3.6 percent and will be the first increase since 2009.
Now before you run out and spend that money (at 3.5 percent, $37.70/month on the average benefit of $1077) remember that for beneficiaries enrolled in traditional Medicare, with the COLA comes an increase in the Medicare Part B premium which is deducted from most people’s Social Security payment.
Due to a “hold harmless” provision in the federal law, Part B withholding cannot be increased if there is no COLA so most people’s Part B premium has remained at $96.40 (some are higher for various reasons) during 2010 and 2011.
Meanwhile, however, in the background the Part B premium has been increasing in the past two years even if it was not applied. The actual 2011 premium is $115.40 and the new rate for 2012 has not been announced. Perhaps it will be today with the COLA announcement.
The hold harmless provision still applies; whatever the Part B premium is for 2012, it cannot be larger than your Social Security COLA.
MEDICARE OPEN ENROLLMENT
It is important to note that the dates for the annual Medicare open enrollment season have changed this year. Although it has been extended from six to seven weeks, it began earlier – last Saturday, 15 October.
Unlike the past, it DOES NOT RUN UNTIL THE END OF THE YEAR. It ends now on Wednesday 7 December, so mark your calendars.
During this period, here is what you can do:
- Enroll in a Part D (prescription drug) plan
- Change from your current Part D plan to a different one
- Return to traditional Medicare (Parts A and B) from a Medicare Advantage plan)
- Enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan
- Change Medicare Advantage plans
You can research and make these changes at the Medicare website or by telephoning 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227).
If you are happy with your Advantage or Part D plans, you need do nothing to keep them. But I highly recommend that you compare your current coverage to others available in your state. Premiums and deductibles change year to year as do drug formularies and Advantage plans might have changed their benefit packages, copays and network providers.
For more information:
• The 2012 Medicare & You Handbook [pdf]
• State Health Insurance Assistance Program (one-on-one help)
• The Medicare Rights Center (information on your rights and benefits)
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Deborah Greant: Operator!