Weekend Update

The FEHBlog continues to enjoy life in Estes Park Colorado which is near the Rocky Mountain National Park. Back to DC tomorrow night.

The House of Representatives is working in the home districts this week while the Senate is in session on Capitol Hill.  On Wednesday at 10 am the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will hold a confirmation hearing on the President’s nominees for OPM Director, Jeff T.H. Pon, and OPM deputy director, Michael Rigas.  The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee will hold hearings on prescription drug costs and improving health outcomes on Tuesday and Thursday respectively.  Here’s a link to the Week in Congress’s report on last week’s activities on Capitol Hill.

Following up on last Friday’s post, here’s a link to Avrik Roy’s Forbes article that knowledgeably breaks down the President’s recent ACA actions. He concludes

What the White House has done, in effect, is to send the ball back into Congress’ court, where Congress has the authority—and the interest—in appropriating funding for cost-sharing subsidies. They should do so, if they can pair that funding with other reforms that would provide relief to those facing unaffordable Obamacare premiums.
Is this Congress capable of doing that? The jury is out.

The Motley Fool offers a useful article projecting 2018 Medicare Part B premiums that builds on the TGIF post.  Here’s the nub:

The Trustees of the Medicare program project that the for 2018 will remain [$134 monthly for Medicare Part B]. That’s good news for those who have been paying the base amount. 

However, there are millions of Americans who are paying less than $134 currently for their Part B premiums, and they can expect 2018 premiums to be higher than what they’re paying now. The reason for the disparity is the Medicare law’s hold harmless provision * * *.

For 2017, Social Security recipients got a small COLA of 0.3%. That allowed Medicare premiums for those protected by the hold harmless rule to rise slightly, but not to the full base amount. The average premium under the hold harmless provision this year was $109 per month. 

Social Security anticipates a much larger cost-of-living increase of between 1.5% and 2% to take effect in 2018. If that turns out to be the case [and it did turn out to be 2%], then many Medicare participants will have to pay the full $134 per month, resulting in a substantial increase.

The article explains that Medicare premium surcharges on higher income folks also will increase. CSRS retirees and new Medicare enrollees are not eligible for the hold harmless provision’s protection.

Last Thursday, OPM released the results of the latest federal employee viewpoint survey.  The results were favorable to the government managers. Here’s a link to the Federal Time’s graphic view of the survey results.