David Sayen: What’s new in Medicare for 2016?

The biggest news in Medicare for 2016 is the Part B premium. I’m happy to report for most people with Medicare, the premium has stayed the same as it was in 2015: $104.90 per month.

In fact, Part B premiums — which pay for doctor services, outpatient care, and preventive health benefits, among other things — haven’t changed for the last three years (2013, 2014, and 2015).

That’s because of slow growth in medical costs and inflation.

Since there’s no Social Security cost-of-living increase for 2016, the law requires most Medicare beneficiaries be protected against any Part B increase in 2016, too.

Beneficiaries not subject to this “hold harmless” provision will pay $121.80 per month, according to the Bipartisan Budget Act signed into law by President Obama in November. Such beneficiaries include those who enroll in Part B for the first time in 2016, those not currently collecting Social Security benefits, “dual eligible” beneficiaries whose premiums are paid by Medicaid, and beneficiaries who pay an additional income-related premium.

These groups account for about 30 percent of the 52 million Americans expected to be enrolled in Medicare Part B in 2016.

As we head into the new year I also want to urge you to take advantage of the large array of preventive services Medicare offers, many at no out-of-pocket cost to you.

Preventive services are intended to keep you healthy and detect disease in its earliest stages, when it’s most treatable. Such services include vaccinations for flu, Hepatitis C, and HIV; screenings for breast, colorectal and prostate cancer; and tests for cardiovascular disease.

These services can improve the quality of your life and even extend your life span, so make sure you get the services you’re entitled to.

During the first 12 months you have Part B, you can get a “Welcome to Medicare” preventive visit. This includes a review of your medical and social history (as it relates to your health), and education and counseling about preventive services, including referrals for other care, if needed.

If you’ve had Part B for longer than 12 months, you can get a yearly “Wellness” visit with your doctor to develop or update a personalized plan to prevent disease or disability based on your current health and risk factors.

Medicare covers the “Wellness” visit once every 12 months.

Your provider will ask you to fill out a questionnaire, called a “Health Risk Assessment,” as part of this visit. Answering these questions can help you and your provider develop a personalized prevention plan to help you stay healthy and get the most out of your visit. The questions are based on years of medical research and advice from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Other preventive services available to people with Medicare include:

Alcohol misuse screening and counseling; Bone mass measurement (bone density); Cervical and vaginal cancer screening; Depression screening; Diabetes screening; Glaucoma tests; Lung cancer screening; Obesity screening and counseling; Sexually transmitted infections screening and counseling; Smoking and tobacco use cessation counseling.

And don’t forget to exercise, eat well, and maintain a healthy weight in 2016. And for goodness sakes stop smoking!

David Sayen is Medicare’s regional administrator for Arizona, California, Nevada, Hawaii, and the Pacific Territories. You can always get answers to your Medicare questions by calling 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227).


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