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Medicare updates for 2011

Health Insurance Information Counseling and Assistance Program counselors have been receiving a lot of questions and expressions of concern about the increase in Medicare Part B premiums when balanced with no cost of living allowance, or COLA, increase in Social Security benefits for 2011.

The majority of people with Medicare will not see an increase in their Part B premium. Many beneficiaries will continue to pay the same premium they paid in 2010 for their Part B coverage ($96.40 or $110.50). This is due to a law that protects Medicare beneficiaries who do not receive a Social Security COLA from seeing an increase in Part B premiums which would decrease their monthly Social Security benefit.

Of course, there are exceptions. Your Part B premium will increase to $115.40 in 2011 if you do not collect Social Security and pay for your Medicare Part B directly to Social Security, you are a new enrollee to Medicare for 2011, or if you are single and your adjusted gross income is above $85,000 or married and your income is $170,000.

If you have chosen to have your Part D Prescription Drug Plan premium paid from your Social Security check and that premium has increased, you will see a subsequent decrease in your Social Security benefit amount. There is no protection against a Part D premium increase in years when there is no Social Security COLA.

The following deductible and coinsurance changes took effect Jan. 1:

• Part A Deductible: $1,132

• Part A Coinsurance: $283 (Days 61-90), $566 (Lifetime Reserve Days), $141.50 (Skilled Nursing Facility)

• Part B Deductible: $162

The Clinton County Office for the Aging provides assistance through HIICAP for any Medicare beneficiary. If you need assistance with Medicare or health insurance related issues, call the office to schedule an appointment with a HIICAP counselor.

The Senior Connection is a column provided by the Clinton County Office for the Aging. For more information about services for senior citizens, contact their office at 135 Margaret St., Suite 105, Plattsburgh or call them at 565-4620. Information is also periodically provided by the Behavioral Health Services North Caregiver Resource Center. They may be reached at 565-4543 or 565-4625.

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