Based on the results so far in the inflation count, the Medicare program has projected that for 2017 a “hold harmless” provision will again mean that some of its enrollees—including most of those retired under CSRS—will have to pay higher premiums than most others. That provision restricts the increase in Medicare Part B (physicians and related services) premiums if the increase in Social Security benefits is insufficient to cover the Medicare premium increase (the same COLA count is used for adjusting both Social Security and federal employee retirement benefits). “This would result in a small increase in Part B premiums for about 70 percent of Medicare beneficiaries, with increases in Part B costs spread over the remaining 30 percent,” it said. The provision impacts most CSRS retirees because Social Security is not part of that retirement benefit; however, some of them receive Social Security benefits based on other work that was covered by that program. Because there was no COLA payout in January of this year, the provision resulted in a monthly Part B premium of $104.90 for those held harmless but $121.80 for those not. Even that higher figure would have been still higher except for a change in law enacted late last year to ease the impact. Whether the hold harmless provision actually will kick in, and whether similar relief will be enacted later this year if it does, is to be determined. In addition to those not getting Social Security, the “hold harmless” provision does not protect individuals enrolling in Part B for the first time in the affected year, pre-existing enrollees who pay an income-related higher premium, and those eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid.
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