In this Edition:
- 2018 Social Security COLA
- House Pits Children Against Seniors
- Executive Order Eliminating ACA Subsidies
- Annual Medicare Enrollment Starts October 15, Ends December 7
- Open Enrollment for Washington State HealthCare.gov (ACA) for Individual Health Care Policies
2018 Social Security COLA Set at 2%
From the Alliance for Retired Americans – The Social Security Administration announced Friday that next year’s Social Security cost of living adjustment (COLA) will be 2.0%. That means an increase of $25 per month for the average beneficiary.
According to the nonpartisan Kaiser Foundation, however, this will not be enough to offset the rise in Medicare Part B premium costs for 2018.
Coverage for Medicare Part B is optional, but 91 percent of Medicare beneficiaries are signed up for it. The program covers physicians’ care, outpatient care, certain medical equipment, laboratory tests, some health home services, and other care for patients. According to a Senior Citizens League study, retirees have lost one-third of their buying power since 2000 because COLA increases haven’t been able to catch up with skyrocketing health care and housing costs. Researchers expect Part B premiums to increase an average of 5.4 percent each year between 2017 and 2024.
House Slashes Medicare to Fund Children’s Health Insurance Program
From the Alliance for Retired Americans – Separate bills to reauthorize the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which expired on October 1, have cleared both the Senate Finance Committee and the House Energy and Commerce Committee. The House version, known as the HEALTHY KIDS Act, extends CHIP funding until 2022 and temporarily increases Medicaid funding for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands in the wake of the recent hurricanes.
But the House bill is drawing particular criticism because it includes a measure that would raid Medicaid and Medicare in order to offset costs for the rest of the bill. High-income Medicare beneficiaries would be charged higher premiums for their Parts B and D coverage.
Specifically, individuals making more than $85,000 and couples making more than $170,000 would pay premiums covering 35 to 80 percent of the cost. Individuals making more than $500,000 and couples making more than $875,000 would pay premiums to cover 100 percent of the cost. These changes would likely result in these seniors leaving Medicare, jeopardizing the program at large.
Medicaid beneficiaries would also be hit hard, as there are provisions making it difficult for mothers and children to obtain prenatal and pediatric care and creating barriers for those who earned a lump sum.
“This is yet another terrible bill from the leadership in House of Representatives. It is cruel and cynical to put the two most vulnerable groups in America against each other,” said Richard Fiesta, Executive Director of the Alliance. “There is no reason for Congress to gut essential programs for older Americans in order to pay for essential children’s health programs or disaster relief.”
The House Committee’s bill passed on a party-line vote. Twenty-three representatives, all of them Democrats, voted against it.
Trump Signs Executive Order Eliminating ACA Subsidies to Low-Income Americans
From The Hill – President Trump will end key payments to insurers selling ACA plans, marking Trump’s most aggressive move yet to dismantle the law after multiple GOP efforts to repeal and replace it failed this year.
The Trump administration has continued making the disbursements to insurers, known as cost-sharing reduction payments, on a monthly basis. But Trump had consistently threatened to end the payments, which are worth an estimated $7 billion this year.
Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) issued a joint statement calling the decision a “spiteful act of vast, pointless sabotage … now, millions of hard-working American families will suffer just because President Trump wants them to.”
Cutting off the subsidies could throw the ACA marketplace into chaos.
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) said in August that about 1 million additional people would be uninsured in 2018 and insurance companies would raise premium prices by about 20 percent for ACA plans if the payments were cut off.
The CBO also said halting the payments would increase the federal deficit by $194 billion through 2026, largely because federal assistance to buy ACA plans rises when premiums do.
The payments help low-income people afford co-pays, deductibles and other out-of-pocket costs associated with health insurance policies. Insurers have called the payments critical, saying that without them, they would have to massively increase premiums or exit the individual market.
Many insurers have already priced their plans for the coming open enrollment period, which begins Nov. 1.
The decision on the payments comes after Trump on Thursday signed an executive order aimed at loosening ObamaCare restrictions on insurance plans, which also could help destabilize the law.
Annual Medicare Enrollment Starts October 15, Ends December 7
Use the Plan Finder & review your coverage options at: https://www.medicare.gov/find-a-plan/questions/home.aspx. You have the option to complete a general or personalized plan search. A personalized search may provide you with more accurate cost estimates and coverage information.
Open Enrollment for Washington State Health Exchange (ACA) for Individual Health Care Policies
For those not covered by the Public Employees Benefits Board (PEBB) – the federal government shortened the 2018 open enrollment period for Exchanges by several weeks. Open enrollment is Nov. 1, 2017 – Jan. 15, 2018. If you want coverage to start Jan. 1, 2018, you must enroll by Dec. 15. If you wait to enroll until Jan. 15, your coverage might not start until Feb. 1. Remember, premium and cost-sharing subsidies are only available through the Exchange. You can buy a plan through the Exchange even if you don’t qualify for premium and cost-sharing subsidies.
As you can see, we have much work to do in the weeks and months ahead to continue the betterment of your retirement security. Your continued support and political action is a necessity!