As 2019 begins, expecting much from our gridlocked government on Medicare and Social Security seems wishful thinking. But the new year will usher in a slew of new cost and benefit levels.
The numbers change every year. I know that, like me, you have trouble keeping track because you ask me about them all the time!
The numbers I outline here are for people with original Medicare. People with private Medicare Advantage plans usually face similar charges; some plans charge lesser amounts (federal law prohibits them from charging more).
The standard monthly premium for Part B will rise to $135.50 from $134 in 2018.
There are also high-income surcharges for people filing individual and joint tax returns. They are based on what’s called Modified Adjusted Gross Income, and 2019 premiums are based on 2017.
The Part B annual deductible is up $2 to $185 in 2019.
The Part A deductible for hospital inpatient stays is rising $24 to $1,364. This is not an annual deductible but one that covers each episode of care. Normally, a new episode will be triggered once a person has been out of the hospital for 60 days.
There is zero coinsurance for stays up to 60 days and $341 a day (up from $335 in 2018) for days 61 through 90. People have up to 60 additional “lifetime reserve days” for longer stays, and the coinsurance charge is $682 a day (up from $670) for each of those days. After this coverage has been exhausted, people with original Medicare must pay all hospital costs. Again, these limits apply to individual benefit periods.
Part A also covers stays in skilled nursing facilities, with no coinsurance for the first 20 days of a benefit period. The coinsurance is $170.50 per day for days 21 to 100, up $3 from 2018. Persons with original Medicare must pay all costs for longer stays.
The Social Security COLA (cost of living adjustment) is increasing 2.8 percent. The average 2018 benefit of $1,422 a month will rise to $1,461 in 2019. This is up from 2 percent last year and is the largest adjustment since 2011.
Workers of all ages will also have to pay payroll taxes, which help fund Social Security, on more of their income this year. The government will tax earnings up to $132,900. The ceiling was $128,400 last year.
The amount that Social Security beneficiaries who are under full retirement age can earn without being penalized — known as the earnings test — is increasing to $17,640 a year ($1,470 a month), up from $17,040 ($1,420 a month). The threshold is $46,920 ($3,910 a month), up from $45,360 ($3,780 a month) in the first year an individual reaches full retirement age.
There are also thresholds for people receiving disability benefits. They cannot earn more than $1,220 a month, up from $1,180 a month for non-blind individuals or $2,040 a month, up from $1,970 a month, for blind individuals. If they do, they can lose their benefits.
Supplemental Security Income — another program that provides cash assistance to aged, blind and disabled persons who have limited income — is increasing its standard payments: $771 a month, up from $750 a month, for individuals; $1,157 a month, up from $1,125 a month, for couples.