Even as health overhaul lurches along in the Senate, there's action in the House to spare millions of Medicare beneficiaries from having to pay more for coverage of outpatient care and doctor visits.
A House bill would halt an increase in Medicare Part B premiums in 2010.
A House bill would halt an increase in Medicare Part B premiums in 2010. iStockphoto.com
The House just voted 406-18 in favor of a bill that would prevent an increase of about $7 a month on premiums next year for Medicare Part B. This year the standard premium is $96.40.
What's the big deal? Social Security beneficiaries aren't getting a cost-of-living increase next year because inflation is so low. Although most Medicare recipients would be exempt from a hike in Part B premiums because of a clause in their plans that kicks in under those circumstances, millions would be still be left on the hook without additional money to pay the extra amount.
So what's the real deal? Politics. The prospect of angry seniors complaining to their congressmen created a "political nightmare," as Politico put it. So the House got into high gear to fix the problem.
The cost of the fix is about $2.8 billion. At a time when everyone on Capitol Hill is pulling out the cushions of the health couch to find money for an overhaul, the quick and costly action on Part B is another indication of seniors' political clout.