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Medicare Part B premium increase to be less than expected

WASHINGTON — Seniors will pay less than expected in Medicare Part B premiums next year, the Obama administration announced Thursday.

Monthly premiums for Medicare Part B, which covers doctors' visits and outpatient procedures, will increase by $3.50, to $99.90, in 2012. Initially, government forecasters had projected a $10.20 premium bump, to $106.60, in seniors' monthly fees.

The additional money that most seniors will pay works out to about 10 percent of the average Social Security cost-of-living increase they will also be due.

The announcement was the third piece of good news about Medicare premiums this year.

The White House said in August that premiums would drop 4 percent in Medicare Advantage, the privately run alternative to the traditional program. Premiums for Medicare's prescription drug program, Part D, also will drop slightly in 2012.

Administration officials attributed the lower premiums to seniors using less medical treatment than initially expected. They also cited some of the changes in the nation's new health care law as potentially driving down costs.

For most seniors, this will be the first Part B premium increase since 2009. For the past two years, most Medicare fees went unchanged because of a "hold harmless" law, which barred the government from increasing them without a cost-of-living adjustment to Social Security.

Medicare Part B premium increase to be less than expected 10/27/11 [Last modified: Thursday, October 27, 2011 10:36pm]
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