October 18,2016

Press Contact:

Taylor Harvey (202) 224-4515

Wyden Statement on 2017 COLA and Medicare Part B Premiums

Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Ron Wyden, D-Ore., today issued a statement following the announcement of a 0.3 percent Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) increase in 2017. The increase is expected to raise premiums significantly for some in Medicare Part B.

“Seniors in Medicare expect their health costs to be affordable and stable, and I’ll be looking at every option in the days ahead to make sure that remains the case,” Wyden said.

A “hold harmless” provision of the Social Security Act limits the increase in an individual’s monthly Medicare Part B premium to the increase in an individual’s Social Security benefit, and applies to the roughly 70 percent of beneficiaries who have their Part B premiums deducted from their Social Security check. When the Social Security COLA is not large enough to allow for full payment of the Part B premium by beneficiaries subject to the hold harmless provision, the remaining 30 percent of beneficiaries have their Part B premiums increased to make up the difference. This 30 percent group includes high-income beneficiaries, new enrollees, enrollees not collecting Social Security benefits, and the millions of dually eligible beneficiaries whose Part B premiums are paid by state Medicaid programs.

Last year, Congress prevented a drastic increase in the Part B premium through a provision of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 (2015 BBA). While the solutions advanced through the 2015 BBA would have been extended in the absence of a COLA (0.0 percent) for 2017, they do not apply in the event of a minimal COLA, as announced by the Social Security Administration today.