Washington Millions of Medicare patients would be spared monthly premium increases next year under a bill passed by the House on Thursday.
The House voted 406 to 18 to eliminate all premium increases for Medicare Part B, which provides coverage for doctor’s visits. The bill now goes to the Senate, where the Finance Committee is expected to take it up soon, though no hearings were scheduled.
Lawmakers said older Americans shouldn’t have to pay higher Medicare Part B premiums because they are not expected to get a cost of living increase from Social Security. Most seniors have their Medicare premiums deducted from their Social Security payments.
Under the law, the vast majority of Medicare recipients already are exempt from Part B premium increases whenever there is no increase in Social Security payments.
Still, without congressional action, several million would face monthly premium increases of $8 to $23. The standard monthly premium is $96.40 this year.
“Our nation’s seniors are already experiencing difficult financial times,” said Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, which oversees Medicare. “The prospect that some may face a disproportionate increase in their Medicare premiums is inherently unfair.”
The bill would not affect scheduled increases in premiums for the Medicare prescription drug program, known as Part D. Average monthly premiums for the drug program will increase slightly, from $28 this year to $30 in 2010.