Record Increase For Medicare Premiums

Medicare monthly premiums are set for a record increase in 2005. In January, people enrolled in Part B of the program will pay 17 percent more a month. Part B covers doctors visits and non-hospital expenses for the elderly and disabled.
Willie Carter of Tyler is one of the 38 million Americans enrolled in Part B of the Medicare program. Like most of those elderly and disabled Americans, Willie lives on a fixed social security income.
"We have to pay it because we have no other way of buying our medication," Willie said.
Beginning in January, Medicare monthly premiums for Part B will increase from $66.60  a month, to $78.20 a month: an increase of 17 percent.
For someone like Willie, that adds up to almost $140 dollars more a year for Medicare.
"If it goes up anymore I don't know how I'm going to be able to pay for it," Willie said. "We're just going to have to cut corners some where."
Seventy-five-year-old Bobbie Hampton has been on Medicare for the past 10 years.
During that time she's seen a number of Medicare premium increases, but never one this high.
"Some people can't afford it, really can't afford it," Bobbie said. "I can some, but not high priced." Just one of Bobbie's lung medications cost $111 a month. She said paying for medication and the rising cost of Medicare will be a strain on her wallet.
"I get less than $1,000 a month on Social Security and that's not much."
Officials said the spike in premiums is due to a rise in health costs and changes made last year to Medicare.
For people like Willie and Bobbie, the next few months will be spent brainstorming ways to cut corners, so they can support the rising cost of living.
The deductible for Part B of the medicare program will also rise by $10 next year to $110. The deductible for Part A will rise by $36.

Maya Golden reporting,