Medicare is used by hundreds of thousands of Americans each year. Provided for severely disabled citizens and citizens over 65, Medicare helps to cover medication costs, hospital stays, surgeries, and other medical necessities.

In some ways, Medicare can be a bit difficult to understand — depending on national prices and regulations, the coverage and cost of Medicare fluctuates every year. This can be confusing or stressful for recipients that rely on dependable, low-cost insurance, especially for medically assistive technologies like wheelchairs and motorized scooters.

While 2017 isn’t bringing many large changes to Medicare, there are a few that may affect you. To understand the potential effects Medicare may have on you, continue below.

Part B – Medical Insurance

Not all Medicare recipients are covered under Part B. To utilize Part B’s benefits, Medicare members must continuously enroll by paying a monthly premium. In 2016, the average monthly premium was approximately $105 — however, numbers vary depending on when a person signed up for Medicare and whether or not they qualify for the “hold harmless” federal law that protects recipients from rising premiums.

In addition, all recipients of Medicare Part B must pay a deductible each year. Once this deductible is met, Part B coverage kicks in, leaving recipients with about 20% of Part B-covered bills, while the remaining 80% is covered by Medicare. As of 2016, this deductible was $166.

To understand how changes in Medicare will affect you and your mobility device, we must look at how Part B’s premiums and deductibles will be shifting in the upcoming year.

Part B Premiums

In 2017, Part B premiums will be rising slightly. Depending on the type of Medicare Part B you have, this change will be slightly different.

If you are part of the 70% of enrollees that fall under the “hold harmless” clause (which includes most regular Social Security recipients), your changes will be very slight. Monthly premiums for “hold harmless” recipients are raising by about $4/month, increasing most premiums to about $109/month. Luckily, this increase is even smaller than previous years.

For those who a) do not receive Social Security checks, b) have higher-than-average income, or c) are new to Medicare for 2017, premiums will be slightly higher. This 30% of enrollees that do not fall under the “hold harmless” clause pay premiums that are more greatly affected annually. As opposed to the $121.80/month most members paid in 2016, premiums in this category will rise approximately 10% to $134/month.

Part B Deductibles

2017 will also bring a slight rise to annual Part B deductibles. Unlike the changes to Plan B premiums, this rise is universal to all typical Part B recipients.

For those receiving Plan B normally through Medicare, deductibles are rising from $166 to $183 in 2017. This means that, at the start of each year, you are required to pay $183 in medical expenses under Part B (doctor’s visits, appointments, durable medical equipment, etc.) before Part B begins covering 80% of all further expenses. Luckily, because this deductible is annual, most Part B recipients will not see much change in their finances — after it is paid, Part B is awarded as usual, covering the normal expenses you require.

There are, however, a few exceptions to this increase. For those receiving Medicare and Medicaid simultaneously, their deductible is already covered by supplemental insurance, meaning no changes will come to their insurance process whatsoever. In addition, those enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans may be affected slightly differently. Because Medicare Advantage combines Part B with other supplemental coverages into one plan, members are affected slightly differently and can call their Medicare Advantage insurer to discuss specific deductible changes.

Other Changes Coming to Medicare

Aside from Part B, there are other smaller changes coming to Medicare’s other coverage plans in 2017. While these may not affect you, they may still be useful to know.

  • Medicare Part A (covers hospitalization costs): For those who pay premiums for Part A, there will be an increase of approximately $1-2/month. Deductibles are also increasing by $28 per hospital stay per benefit period (the first 60 days as an inpatient).
  • Medicare Part D (covers prescription drug plans): While premiums vary from person to person, and some people may qualify for the “Extra Help” plan, those receiving Medicare Part D are expected to pay an extra $3-4/month.
  • Medicare Therapy Gap: For those receiving physical therapy, occupational therapy, or speech-language therapy, Medicare coverage is increasing to allow patients to receive more insurance-covered therapy. Physical therapy (PT) and speech-language pathology (SLP) are rising to a combined therapy cap of $1,980, while the occupational therapy (OT) cap is also rising to $1,980.

This article was written by the Outreach Team at Disability Benefits Help. They provide information about disability benefits and the application process. To learn more, please visit their website at http://www.disabilitybenefitscenter.org or by contacting them at help@ssd-help.org.