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Medicare Offers Smallest Rise in Premiums in 6 Years
Date:10/1/2007

Deductibles will climb, too, however

MONDAY, Oct. 1 (HealthDay News) -- Medicare's standard monthly premium is rising to $96.40 in 2008 -- a 3.1 percent increase from 2007 and the smallest hike in six years, U.S. health officials announced on Monday.

The increase is lower because the agency fixed an accounting error that would have raised the monthly premium even more.

"In the absence of the accounting error, we would probably have an increase in the premium to about $99," Rick Foster, the chief actuary U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) said during a late morning teleconference. "That's largely a onetime impact," he stressed.

Medicare's Part B program covers the health care of 43 million senior and disabled people. Rising costs and increasing participation have dramatically increased the program's costs in recent years, however.

Deductibles are rising, too. The average deductible for Part B rose from $131 in 2007 to $135 in 2008, the agency said.

The deductible for Medicare Part A is also increasing in 2008, agency officials said. "The deductible paid by the beneficiary when admitted to the hospital will increase from $992 to $1,024," Kerry Weems, CMS's acting administrator said during the teleconference.

Medicare's Part A program covers hospital and hospice care as well as short stays in nursing homes. Participants covered by this program do not pay a monthly premium.

The reasons for next year's premium increase are manifold and include the rising cost of items such as home health care, physician-administered drugs, ambulatory surgical center services, medical equipment, doctor's office lab services and other services and programs, Weems said.

In addition, Medicare is hiking premiums for those making $80,000 a year or more. This increase affects 5 percent of people with Part B coverage, according to Weems.

He noted that the boost
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