HARRISBURG - Medicare premiums could go way up for many seniors next year.
People who have Medicare Part B and are not receiving Social Security, or who have high incomes or are newly enrolled in the program, could see premiums 52 percent higher.
According to Ray Landis, advocacy manager for AARP of Pennsylvania, this will really hurt low-income people getting Medicare for the first time.
"Because suddenly they're looking at a $159 a month Medicare Part B premium when others who are already enrolled are paying $104 a month," he points out.
The increase would affect about one out of every seven people enrolled in Medicare. That's about 7 million people nationally.
Landis says the increase is so large because of a provision in the law that is meant to protect those who are already in the system from sharp increases.
"If those folks do not receive a Social Security cost-of-living increase, their Medicare premium cannot increase in that year," he explains.
Since no Social Security cost-of-living increase is expected in 2016, the entire burden of increased health care costs falls on those not covered by that provision of the law.
As Landis points out, the Part B premiums aren't the only cost borne by seniors on Medicare.
"Individuals who have a Part B premium also have to go out and buy a supplemental policy," he says. "That makes health care very expensive."
U.S. Sen. Bob Casey is proposing legislation to prevent such a large increase by putting more federal money into Medicare, but AARP says finding the funds to do that will be a challenge.