About 49 million U.S. residents over 65 qualify to get Medicare Part A without paying a monthly premium. (Image: CMS)

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) says it will hold the increase in the monthly premium for Medicare Part A hospitalization coverage to less than 1 percent for low-income enrollees in 2017.

But CMS will let the Medicare Part B outpatient and physician services coverage premiums for some higher-income Medicare enrollees rise about 10 percent.

CMS published the official 2017 premium notices for the Medicare Part A hospitalization insurance program, and the Medicare Part B outpatient and physician services program, today in the Federal Register.

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CMS has also posted a simpler summary of the premium changes on its own website.

About 49 million U.S. residents over 65 qualify to get Medicare Part A without paying a monthly premium because they or their spouses have earned access to no-premium Part A coverage by paying payroll taxes.

The monthly premium for the 654,000 Part A enrollees who do have to pay the premiums will increase just 0.5 percent in 2017, to $413.

The monthly premium for 67,000 low-income Part A enrollees who qualify for a special reduced rate will also increase 0.5 percent, to $227.

The rules that apply to Medicare Part B rates are different.

CMS must charge higher-income Medicare Part B enrollees premiums that are higher than the standard premium. Extra charges begin to apply for enrollees who file individual tax returns and have more than $85,000 in annual income, and to enrollees who file joint returns and have more than $170,000 in annual income.

Another Medicare pricing rule, a “hold harmless” provision, protects the low-income and moderate-income enrollees who pay the standard premium for Medicare Part B coverage, if those enrollees have been receiving Medicare Part B benefits for at least a year and have the Medicare Part B premiums deducted from their Social Security checks.

A federal law prohibits CMS from letting an increase in the Medicare Part B premium cause the net Social Security benefits amount those enrollees receive to fall.

For the Medicare Part B enrollees who pay the standard monthly premium, the premium will rise just 3.9 percent in 2017, to 2017.

For the Medicare Part B enrollees who do not benefit from the hold harmless provision, including the enrollees who have to pay an income-adjusted Medicare Part B premium, the standard premium will increase about 10 percent, to $134, from $121.80.

CMS has a total of four premium categories for higher-income Medicare Part B enrollees. Enrollees who file an individual return and have more than $214,000 in income, or who file a joint return and have more than $428,000 in income, are in the top premium category. Their monthly Part B premium is on track to increase $428.60, from $389.80.

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