ElderLaw News

ElderLaw News is a weekly e-newsletter that brings you reports of legal developments and other trends of vital interest to seniors and their advocates. This newsletter is brought to you by The Estate Planning & Elder Law Firm, P.C., William S. Fralin, Esq., President.

Medicare Part B Premium Remains the Same in 2009

The Medicare Part B premium for most beneficiaries will remain at $96.40 per month for 2009.

This is the first time since 2000 that the premium is not increasing, and this is only the fifth time since 1976 that the premium has been frozen. Individuals earning more than $85,000 and couples earning more than $170,000 will still pay premiums based on their income, with the premiums ranging from $134.90 to $303.30 per month. The deductible for Part B will also remain steady at $135.

Normally, premiums go up each year because costs and demand for care projected for the coming year are expected to rise. These costs will likely rise next year, but these costs will likely be offset because of an adequate reserve in the Medicare Part B trust fund. The reserve gained $9.3 billion this year after officials realized that money for hospice costs had been inadvertently drawn from Medicare Part B instead from Medicare Part A. Healthcare costs usually rise more quickly than inflation, so the premium freeze may not last past 2009.

Medicare Part B covers a portion of the cost for visits to physicians, other outpatient care, durable medical equipment (like wheelchairs and oxygen machines), some home health services, certain outpatient therapies, and drugs that cannot be administered by patients at home and are thus administered by physicians in their offices. Medicare Part A covers hospital and limited nursing home care. Most beneficiaries do not pay a monthly charge for that coverage, but next year they will pay a $1,068 deductible when admitted to a hospital; this is a $44 increase from the current deductible. Medicare projects that it will spend $245.5 billion on hospital, skilled nursing, hospice and some home health services, and $194.3 billion on Part B services.

Low-income Medicare beneficiaries can receive assistance with the Medicare Part B premium costs, as well as the deductibles and co-payments. These beneficiaries are called "dual eligibles" because they are eligible for Medicare, and they are also eligible for Medicaid due to their low income. For Qualified Medicare Beneficiaries (QMBs), Medicaid will pay the Medicare Part B premium, deductibles, and co-payments. For Specified Low-Income Medicare Beneficiaries (SLMBs), Medicaid will pay the Part B premium. These dual eligible beneficiaries can also receive assistance with the Medicare Part D prescription drug benefit costs.

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The Estate Planning & Elder Law Firm, P.C. is an elder law firm. We represent older persons, disabled persons, their families, and their advocates. The practice of elder law includes estate planning, estate and trust administration, powers of attorney, advance medical directives, titling of assets and designations of beneficiaries, guardianships, conservatorships, and public entitlements such as Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, and SSI, disability planning, income tax planning and preparation, care management, and fiduciary services. For more information about The Estate Planning & Elder Law Firm, P.C., please visit our website at http://www.chroniccareadvocacy.com.

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