As the 2022 Medicare annual enrollment period nears, premiums and deductibles are set to increase, but there are also added benefits in store for Medicare Advantage enrollees.
Here's what we currently know about what Medicare and Medicare Advantage enrollees can expect for the 2022 policy year:
Part B and Social Security
Social Security is expected to increase payments 5.5% to 6.2% next year, considerably more than the 1.3% rise this year. The expected amount is based on higher inflation we experienced in 2021.
This escalation will increase Part B premiums but's not clear by how much rates will go up. Experts predict that it will be more than the $4 increase that took effect for 2021 from 2020.
One thing we know for sure though: The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services cannot increase Part B premiums to the point where it reduces a person's Social Security check from the previous year.
As for the Part B deductible, pundits expect that it will increase to $212 from $202.
The national average price of a prescription drug plan in 2022 will be $33.37 per month, nearly $2 higher than in 2021.
The late enrollment penalty, for those who did not enroll in a Part D plan when first eligible, will be $0.33 per month for each month they don't carry drug coverage.
CMS has been buffering Medicare Advantage plans by increasing how much they are paid by 5.6%. That means that Medicare Advantage plans are likely to bolster their coverage, such as:
Telemedicine - Telehealth visits to primary care doctors, cardiologists, dermatologists, gynecologists, endocrinologists and psychologists will grow as insurers expand their telemedicine services. This comes after one survey showed that 91% of enrollees had favorable experiences when using telemedicine since the COVID-19 pandemic started.
Mental health treatment coverage - Access to expanded mental health services is also likely to expand as the pandemic has shined the spotlight on people's mental struggles.
The pandemic also affected older citizens disproportionately, as 46% of older citizens reported being stressed, and 23% said they were lonely and sad. Telehealth looks to be a more efficient way of reaching those reluctant to go for in-person counseling sessions.
End-stage renal disease - Advantage plans as of this year can no longer refuse to accept enrollees who have end-stage renal disease. This is thanks to the 21st Century Cures Act, which took effect this year.
That is an important change, considering that annual treatment costs for a patient with end-stage renal disease top $70,000 per year. Also, most of these patients undergo thrice-weekly dialysis treatments to stay alive, and many have other chronic health conditions that require medical care, such as diabetes, heart disease or hypertension.
Dental coverage - While Medicare Advantage plans often cover preventative services for dental, vision and hearing, Original Medicare has never covered them. That may change as there is legislation in play in Congress that would cover basic preventative services for dental, vision and hearing in Original Medicare.
It's still unclear how CMS would pay for this added benefit, which would cost an estimated $358 billion over the next decade.
Republicans like the idea behind the Democrat-sponsored measure, but not the cost, and the American Dental Association has expressed concern over the bill in its current form.
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