So what’s new to Medicare in 2018?
1. PART D: Premiums have gone down
Yes, you read that right, they are a bit lower overall for 2018. Although the prices are down a bit, each Part D plan will differ slightly in its coverage, so seniors should be sure to review the varying plans and available options and make sure that, for 2018, they are on the best plans for their prescription needs.
2. PART B PREMIUMS: Increasing for some, unchanging for others
For new enrollees and those who are not on Social Security, Part B premiums will not change for 2018 ($134/month), which is great news. On the other hand, for those on Social Security whose Part B premiums are deducted from their Social Security check, you will see your premiums playing catch up. How so? During years where there is no Social Security COLA (cost-of-living adjustment), Part B premiums must not increase for those on Social Security regardless of increases for new enrollees, etc. Since 2018 is finally bringing a significant COLA increase of 2% with Social Security, Part B premiums will now be permitted to increase to match that. So although your Social Security checks will be increasing, that extra money will go to pay your higher Part B premiums, and average Part B premiums have jumped from $109/month to $134. This leaves seniors taking home the same amount of money as before from Social Security, despite the COLA increase.
3. PART B PREMIUMS: Higher-income individuals will pay a higher Part B surcharge
It isn’t so much that the Part B surcharges have changed so much as that the income brackets for higher earners have changed considerably. Prior to 2018, the highest Part B surcharge was limited to individuals making more than $214,000 and married couples at $428,000. In 2018, the highest bracket now starts at $160,000 for individuals ($320,000 for married). Only individuals making more than $133,500 and couples earning more than $267,000 will see the increase.
Here’s how the new higher income brackets look:
Individuals: more than $160,000
Married: more than $320,000
4. MEDICARE ADVANTAGE PLANS: Fewer plans will offer low caps for out-of-pocket expenses
In the past, the available options for Part C that capped out-of-pocket expenses at $4,000 were aplenty. In 2018, the number of plans that offer that cap is significantly lower. Many Part C plans will still offer $0 monthly premiums, but without the out-of-pocket cap, seniors may end up paying much more for any traditional Medicare (Part A and B) expenses than they predict.
5. MEDICARE SUPPLEMENTS: No changes
Prices aren’t much different from 2017. Considering the increase in the cap on Advantage Plans, that may make Medicare Supplement plans for many seniors more appealing, budget-friendly option. Prices on supplemental plans can change from month to month, so buying early in your 7-month window can offer some advantages.
YOUR NEXT STEPS?
Knowing the changes for 2018 can help you make the most informed decision about your healthcare needs and budget when you enroll in Medicare. You can enroll for Parts A and B online through Social Security, by calling the Social Security office at 1-800-772-1213, or in person at a Social Security office. The majority* of new seniors have a 7-month window to sign up for Original Medicare, 3 months preceding and 3 months following your 65th birthday. (*If you are between the ages of 62-65 and already receive SSI benefits, you will be auto-enrolled in Medicare.)
Once you’ve signed up, make sure you have a trusted and independent Medicare agent help you decide between a Supplement+Part D plan and a Medicare Advantage Plan. Only with an agent or firm who is independent of any partnerships or contracts with insurers are you guaranteed unbiased assistance.