2015 Medicare Updates

When you do the math on the increases in Social Security benefits and Medicare part A and B payments, then lump them with the changing costs of food, gas and health care, senior and disabled Americans still face tight budgets in 2015—and some could find themselves in a hole.

The Social Security Administration last month announced a 1.7% cost-of-living adjustment, or COLA, for retirement and disability payments in 2015. For the average recipient, that’s a $22 rise to $1,328 a month.

Earlier, the Department of Health and Human Services released Medicare parts A and B premiums and deductibles for 2015. The good news: The premium and annual deductible on Part B for those with incomes of $85,000 or less will stay at $104.90 and $147, respectively.

But Part A deductibles that retirees pay when admitted to a hospital will rise 3.6%, or $44, to $1,216 for the first 60 days of inpatient care. Additional days also rise 3.6%, to $315 each for days 61 to 90, and to $630 daily beyond day 90. (Most retirees don’t pay Part A premiums.) The 1.7% COLA equals the 1.7% rise in consumer prices for the year to September. It also matches the 1.7% rise in the cost of medical services, but not the 2.9% increase in drug prices, a cost many seniors incur monthly.

Even the 3.6% drop in gasoline prices in the past year won’t help much, since most retirees don’t drive that often. What will hurt is the 3% jump in food prices.