Higher Medicare Part B premiums for some. Most Medicare beneficiaries will not see their premiums increase next year. By law, Part B premiums cannot increase faster than Social Security cost-of-living adjustments. Most existing beneficiaries will continue to pay $96.40 per month if they signed up in 2009 or earlier and $110.50 if they signed up in 2010. However, new enrollees in 2011 who have incomes of $85,000 or less ($170,000 for couples) must pay $115.40 per month. Beneficiaries earning income above that threshold will face even higher premiums. New services will be added to Medicare, including many free preventive care measures such as cancer screenings, beginning on Jan. 1, 2011.
Extra Medicare Part D help. Medicare Part D premiums could increase next year, even for existing beneficiaries. The average monthly prescription drug premium will grow 10 percent, to $40.72 in 2011, if beneficiaries remain in their current plan, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation analysis of Part D plans. However, heavy prescription drug users who reach the "donut hole" coverage gap will get some extra help next year. "People will automatically get some form of gap coverage in 2011, regardless of what plan they choose," says Juliette Cubanski, a policy analyst at the Kaiser Family Foundation. Due to provisions of the Affordable Care Act of 2010, seniors who spend more than $2,840 on prescription medications in 2011 will get a 50 percent discount on brand-name drugs and a 7 percent break on generic drugs until catastrophic coverage kicks in.