October 27,2011

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Baucus Comment on HHS’ Announcement of Medicare Part B Premium Rates for 2012


To: Reporters and Editors
From: The Communications Office of Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.)
Re: Baucus Comment on HHS’ Announcement of Medicare Part B Premium Rates for 2012

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) commented today on the announcement from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that Medicare Part B monthly premiums for 2012 will rise for most seniors to $99.90 – an increase much less than projections made earlier this year.  High-income and recently-enrolled seniors, who now pay $115.40, will see a significant reduction in premiums beginning next year.  HHS also announced today the Medicare Part B deductible will be $140, a drop of $22 from 2011.  From Chairman Baucus:

“Today’s news shows we need to continue letting health reform work for our seniors.  The Affordable Care Act is restraining costs, and many seniors recently enrolled in Medicare will actually see a decrease in their rate next year.  As we move towards a system that rewards quality care over quantity and makes it easier for doctors and hospitals to work together effectively to deliver better care, seniors will be healthier and save money.”

Over the next several years, cost-saving Affordable Care Act (ACA) provisions will kick in to control costs in Part B.  Accountable Care Organizations, bundled payments and value-based payments will help improve and coordinate care across every level of medicine, including those covered by Medicare Part B, so that care is patient-centered and efficient.  The ACA also includes provisions designed to boost primary care and improve preventive care, which will help restrain costs and control premiums by identifying health issues early when they are most treatable.  Keeping seniors healthier and treating illness earlier will result in lower costs and lower premiums.

Chairman Baucus also released a Finance Committee report last month showing tactics used by major for-profit home health companies, which contribute to Medicare Part B costs, to game Medicare and increase profits.  The report uncovered strategies designed to maximize payments from Medicare, even when the treatments were medically unnecessary.  Companies pushed therapists to meet predetermined “targets” and follow clinical guidelines developed only to chase profits, not meet their patients’ medical needs.  This type of investigation helps crack down on fraud, waste and abuse in the health care system, which cost Americans an estimated $60 billion each year and drive Medicare costs and premiums upwards.  The ACA makes record investments in fraud crackdowns to help curb that waste.