MEDICARE: Slight Increase In 1999 Premiums/Deductibles
The Clinton administration Friday announced the Medicare deductible and premium rates for 1999. The Medicare Part B premium -- the portion seniors use to cover office visits and other outpatient care -- will increase $1.70 for a total of $45.50 a month. This is the first time in two years that this premium, which is typically deducted from Social Security checks, has increased. The Part A deductible, which covers the first 60 days of hospital stays, will rise by $4 to $768. Copayments for hospital stays longer than 60 days will rise a dollar to $192, while copayments for the first 20 days of nursing home care will rise 50 cents to $96. The 360,000 Medicare beneficiaries who pay a monthly premium for Part A will see no increase in 1999, leaving premium at $309. The Department of Health and Human Services said the smaller than average increases largely reflect savings from reductions in Medicare hospital payments and other program changes achieved under the 1997 Balanced Budget Act (HHS release, 10/16).
Social Security payments will increase 1.3% next year, boosting the average monthly check for retirees by $10 to $780. According to the administration, this is the lowest cost-of-living increase in 12 years. While one senior greeted the slight increase stoically -- "Anything, if it ain't but a dollar, will help" -- others were outraged -- "You've got to be kidding. Just $10 more. That's ridiculous" (Chandler/Jackson, Chicago Tribune, 10/17).