September 14, 2016

What Journalists Need to Know for Medicare’s 2017 Fall Open Enrollment
Medicare Rights Center Releases Fall Open Enrollment Resource for Journalists—

New York, NY—Medicare Fall Open Enrollment occurs from October 15 to December 7 of every year and is the time of year when people with Medicare can make unrestricted changes to their coverage options. To assist the press in their Medicare coverage, the Medicare Rights Center has developed Fall Open Enrollment: a Resource for Journalists, which includes a list of upcoming changes, expert advice, and related issues of interest to people with Medicare. Also included are consumer-friendly resources that can be shared with your audience.

The Medicare Rights Center, a national nonprofit consumer service organization that works to ensure access to affordable health care for older adults and people with disabilities, expects that journalists will find the resource helpful as they prepare coverage for this year’s Medicare enrollment season.

A few notable updates for 2017 include the following:

Part B out-of-pocket costs projected to increase in 2017.

According to the 2016 Medicare Trustees Report, Part B premiums may increase to $149 per month or more for nearly 30 percent of beneficiaries. The trustees also predict that this increase will be accompanied by a hike in the Part B deductible—up to $204 from $166. These projected increases in Part B premiums and the deductible are, in part, due to a predicted nominal Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) for Social Security recipients in 2017 (as low as 0.2 percent) resulting in the application of the hold harmless provision in the Social Security Act.

Through the hold harmless provision, the dollar increase in the Part B premium is limited to the dollar increase in an individual’s Social Security benefit. Should the trustees’ assumptions hold, roughly 70 percent of Medicare beneficiaries will be held harmless, while the remaining 30 percent will shoulder the cost of the expected premium increase.

Older adults and people with disabilities affected by the projected premium increase include: new Medicare enrollees in 2017; individuals not collecting Social Security benefits; and beneficiaries already paying higher, income-related premiums. Over nine million beneficiaries dually eligible for Medicare and Medicaid are also subject to the higher premiums and state Medicaid programs will bear this cost.

Unlike the 2016 Part B premium projections, the estimated increase in the Part B deductible will affect all Medicare beneficiaries. Final 2017 Part B premium and deductible amounts will not be known until October 2016, after the COLA is announced.

SHIP funding still at stake in 2017.

In June, The U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee approved a 2017 spending bill that completely eliminates funding for the Medicare State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP). In July, the U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Committee approved a bill that would provide funding for the SHIP program at the current level of $52.1 million.

The SHIP is the only resource that provides free, personalized, unbiased counseling on the growing complexities of Medicare coverage.

In the months ahead, Congress will choose whether to adopt, diminish, or improve on the House Appropriations Committee proposal to provide SHIP funding at the current level.

The complete Fall Open Enrollment: a Resource for Journalists is available on the Medicare Rights Center’s website

Contact: Mitchell Clark – – 212-204-6286

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Medicare Rights Center is a national, nonprofit consumer service organization that works to ensure access to affordable health care for older adults and people with disabilities through counseling and advocacy, educational programs, and public policy initiatives.

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