Some Retirees Could Get Medicare-Surcharge Refund
By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Sept. 17, 2004 A collaborative effort between the Department of Defense, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Social Security Administration could prove beneficial to certain Medicare-eligible uniformed services beneficiaries.
The Medicare Modernization Act of 2003 provides a chance for Medicare-eligible uniformed services beneficiaries to enroll in Medicare Part B without having to pay higher premiums due to late enrollment. Beneficiaries who enrolled in Part B in 2001 through 2004 will get a refund of surcharges they have paid in 2004.
By law, uniformed services beneficiaries who are entitled to Medicare Part A, by reason of disability, end-stage renal disease or age, must also enroll in Medicare Part B in order to maintain their Tricare eligibility. Tricare, the military health benefit program, is secondary payer following Medicare for beneficiaries entitled to Medicare Parts A and B.
The Part B premium is $66.60 per month for 2004. The Part B premium will increase to $78.20 per month for 2005. Beneficiaries are encouraged to take advantage of this limited, one-time opportunity. If beneficiaries decline enrollment in Part B, they will have to pay a premium surcharge of 10 percent for each 12-month period in which they were eligible to enroll but didn't.
"This is an important announcement for uniformed services retirees who are entitled to Medicare Part A and don't have Part B," said Dr. Mark B. McClellan, CMS administrator, "also, (for) those who enrolled in Medicare Part B between Jan. 1, 2001, through 2004."
Nearly 35,000 retirees have been identified as eligible for the special enrollment in Medicare Part B. SSA is mailing notification to eligible beneficiaries to inform them that they have been enrolled in Medicare Part B effective Sept. 1.
Those who are eligible for a refund will get a letter and a separate refund check. McClellan and Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs Dr. William Winkenwerder Jr. estimated that a total of 60,000 beneficiaries would be affected by the changes. This legislation does not provide relief for all categories of beneficiaries.
"The new Medicare law protects thousands of military retirees from having to make higher payments to enroll in Medicare Part B," said McClellan. "This will allow eligible military retirees to use their Tricare benefits as a Medicare supplement."
"We welcome these new provisions and the assistance they provide for many of our military beneficiaries to retain their Tricare benefits as a supplement to Medicare coverage," Winkenwerder stated.