The agreement up for voting now, starting in the House, also would provide some relief from a potential jump in Medicare Part B premiums in 2016 for certain enrollees. Under a “hold harmless” provision in current law, about 70 percent of enrollees would have their premiums frozen at the current rate of about $105 a month because there will be no COLA for Social Security (or federal retirement) benefits, but those not protected are on the hook for much higher rates, estimated at about $160 a month. That smaller group includes new enrollees for 2016, those who pay higher premiums due to higher income, and those not eligible for Social Security benefits–which includes most of those retired under CSRS. The measure is designed to still keep premiums flat in 2016 for the protected 70 percent while allowing the cost for the rest to increase to about $124 a month. “While I believe this is a good compromise for the 2016 premiums, Congress and the administration must fix this situation once and for all,” said National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association president Richard G. Thissen. “Millions of individuals should not have to live with this type of financial uncertainly just because their Medicare premiums do not come from Social Security.” Savings to offset the additional spending in the bill mainly would come from Medicare reimbursements, closing loopholes in Social Security and tightening policies on disability benefits. While no provisions would directly impact federal employment related benefits, some members of Congress continue to push for such cuts, especially now that Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., who as the Budget Committee chairman was a primary sponsor of past plans, is set to take over as Speaker. One such move is a new bill (HR-3777) to require all FERS employees to pay in at the higher rate applying only to those hired in 2014 and later, along with reducing future retiree COLAs.
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