Medicare Outpatient Premiums Stay Flat
Official Calls It a ‘One-Time’ Adjustment
Sept. 19, 2008 -- Medicare beneficiaries' out-of-pocket costs for doctor
visits and other outpatient services won't rise next year, only the sixth time
in the history of the program they've remained stable, government officials
Premiums and deductibles for hospital stays will go up, officials said.
Medicare announced that premiums for Part B, which covers doctor visits,
outpatient services, medical equipment, and other services, will stay at $96.40
per month in 2009. It's the same rate seniors and disabled beneficiaries pay
Part B's deductible, the one-time amount seniors pay out-of-pocket before
benefits kick in, will also stay the same at $135 per year.
"There's good news in the numbers," said Kerry Weems, the
administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
At the same time, out-of-pocket deductibles for hospital visits or nursing
home care will rise $44 to $1,068 in 2009, Weems said. Most beneficiaries do
not pay premiums for hospital coverage.
Richard Foster, Medicare's chief actuary, said it is only the sixth time in
Medicare's 40-plus year history, and the first time since 2000, that outpatient
premiums have stayed flat.
By law, Part B premiums make up about one-quarter of the total cost of the
program each year. When costs go up for physician services or medical
equipment, premiums tend to go up along with them.
Physician fees are set to rise 1.2% next year. But Foster said that
unexpected surpluses in a federal account means that Part B premiums will not
rise in 2009.
"This is largely a one-time adjustment," Foster told reporters.
Asked if Medicare premiums and deductibles were likely to continue their usual
rise next year, Foster said, "probably."
Nancy LeaMond, executive vice president of AARP, said in a statement that
Friday's announcement would let seniors "breathe a sigh of relief."
But the statement from the powerful Washington lobbying group urged
lawmakers on Capitol Hill not to rest comfortably. "The average 73-year-old
in Medicare has seen his or her premium double since joining the program,"