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What’s New for Medicare in 2018

It’s never too early to look ahead to some of the major changes to expect for Medicare in 2018, such as changes in cost, coverage, and enrollment periods. Here are some of the most important updates to Medicare next year:

Medicare Cost and Coverage

  • The standard Medicare Part B monthly premium and deductibles for 2018 won’t change from $134 (premium) and $183 (deductible). However, because of the size of the 2018 Social Security Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA), approximately 42% of Medicare beneficiaries who were held harmless against the rising annual costs of Medicare in past years will see an increase up to $134.
  • In addition, there have been changes to the Part B surcharge for individuals and couples with higher incomes, specifically if your income is at or above $133,501 or if you’re married with joint income above $267,001.
  • Medicare Part A inpatient hospital deductibles will also increase in 2018, going up $24 to $1,340.

New Medicare Cards

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) will begin issuing new Medicare cards in April 2018 that no longer include your Social Security number. The Social Security numbers will be replaced by a new Medicare Beneficiary Identifier (MBI). The cards will be mailed to your address on file with the Social Security Administration, so make sure your contact information is accurate.

It will take 12 months to mail new cards to all Medicare beneficiaries. During this time, keep in mind that Medicare will never request personal or private information, so be wary of anyone contacting you about the new card or MBI. Once you receive your new card, destroy the old card immediately.

Want to find out when you’ll receive your card? Sign up to get an email from Medicare.

Special Enrollment Periods and Extensions

  • Disaster Special Enrollment – Medicare beneficiaries in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands affected by the fall hurricanes and beneficiaries in the FEMA-declared emergency and major disaster areas of California may be eligible for a Special Enrollment Period (SEP) that runs through March 31, 2018. Contact Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 or visit a local Social Security office to make an enrollment request due to weather-related events.
  • Part B Equitable Relief – If you delayed enrolling in Medicare Part B so you could stay in an Affordable Care Act Marketplace Qualified Health Plan (QHP), you may be able to enroll in Medicare Part B without penalty or with a reduced late enrollment penalty. You may be eligible for this equitable relief if you are enrolled in a QHP and you are enrolled in a premium-free Part A, AND your initial enrollment period (IEP) began April 1, 2013 or later OR if you were notified of retroactive premium-free Part A on October 2, 2013 or later. You have until Sept. 30, 2018 to request equitable relief from the Social Security Administration.
  • Changes Based on Star Rating – Medicare uses a star rating system to measure how Medicare Advantage and Part D plans perform. You can switch to a five-star rated Medicare Advantage Plan, Medicare Cost Plan, or Part D plan (if one is available in your area) once per year outside of annual open enrollment (Dec. 8 – Nov. 30). People in consistently low-performing Medicare Advantage or Part D plans (lower than three-star for three consecutive years) can request a Special Enrollment Period to enroll in a higher star rated plan throughout the year.

Do you have any questions about the new Medicare cards or special enrollment periods? Let us know by leaving a comment below.

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About Brandy Bauer

Brandy Bauer is Associate Director of NCOA's Center for Benefits Access, where she helps state agencies and community organizations connect low-income Medicare beneficiaries to benefits.

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