Social Security and Medicare Updates

It has already been widely reported that there will be a Cost of Living  increase to Social Security benefits in 2012, for the first time in three years.  This 3.6% increase affects disability benefits under the SSI and SSDI programs, as well as Retirement Benefits.

For a single person on SSI, this will increase her maximum monthly benefit from $674 to $698.  And a retiree with a monthly benefit of $1,600 will receive almost $700 more over the course of the year.  That person should wait a few more weeks before deciding on where to spend that extra cash.  Medicare had been prohibited from increasing the Part B premium during the two years when there was no cost of living increase,  but that ban has now been listed.  While some feared that the agency might hold back between a quarter and a third of the additional benefit for this purpose, the increase of $3.50 per month only amounts to about 10% of the COLA increase. 

In another change, Medicare has added a week to the Open Enrollment period during which you can add, or drop, Part D (prescription drug) coverage; change your carrier for your Part D and/or Medicare Advantage Plan, or switch from an Advantage plan to Original Medicare.  However, they have also moved the dates up significantly.  Whereas last year, changes could be made from November 15 through December 31, this year, the enrollment period opened on October 15, and remains open through December 7, 2011. The changes will become effective on January 1, 2012.



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