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Medicare premiums based on tax return of 2 years ago

Medicare premiums are based on income. What figure does the government use to determine your income?

The Social Security Administration bases your Medicare premium on the most recent tax return available, which is usually two years old. Your 2016 premium is based on your 2014 tax return. You can ask the agency to adjust your premium if that information has substantially changed — for example, because you amended your 2014 tax return, or married, divorced, or were widowed since you filed it, or have stopped working or work fewer hours.

Absent a change in 2016, most Medicare recipients will pay the standard premium, $104.90 per month, for Part B, which covers doctors’ services. But the standard Part B premium will rise to $121.80 per month for new Medicare enrollees and for Medicare recipients who don’t yet collect Social Security.

Why the difference? Most current Medicare recipients escape the premium hike thanks to a legal wrinkle: In a year when there’s no Social Security cost of living increase — which will be the case in 2016 unless Congress passes recently proposed legislation — the law exempts people from a Medicare premium increase if their Medicare premiums are automatically deducted from their Social Security checks.

In 2016, higher-income Medicare beneficiaries — individuals whose 2014 income was above $85,000 and couples whose 2014 income was above $170,000 — will pay between $170.50 and $389.80 per month for Part B, depending on their income level.

The 2016 Part B annual deductible is $166, up from $147 in 2015. And as always, Part A (hospital coverage) is free if you paid Social Security payroll taxes for at least 10 years.

THE BOTTOM LINE Your Medicare premium is usually based on the income tax return you filed two years ago.


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