25 Percent of Seniors to Face Highest-Ever Medicare Premiums Under Obama Budget

By Matt Cover | February 13, 2012 | 4:01 PM EST

FILE - In this Oct. 26, 2009 file photo, primary care physician Dr. Don Klitgaard greets Muriel Bacon as her husband weighs in with a nurse, at the Myrtue Medical Center in Harlan, Iowa. Unless Congress acts before Jan. 1 doctors will again face steep Medicare cuts that threaten to undermine health care for millions of seniors and disabled people. It's become a symbol of sorts for the federal government's budget dysfunction. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik, File)

(CNSNews.com) Under cost-cutting reforms proposed by President Obama in his 2013 budget, 25 percent of seniors would face the highest Medicare monthly premiums for health care and prescription drugs.

Obama also proposes to increase the highest Medicare premiums by 15 percent starting in 2017.

“Beginning in 2017, the Administra­tion proposes to increase income-related premi­ums under Medicare Parts B and D by 15 percent and maintain the income thresholds associated with income-related premiums until 25 percent of beneficiaries under Parts B and D are subject to these premiums,” Obama’s budget proposal says.

Currently, wealthier seniors are charged higher premiums to reflect the fact that they can afford to pay for more of their own health care, even though they have paid into the program just like everyone else -- and, since they are wealthier, would have paid more in Medicare taxes while they were working.

Obama plans to increase this penalty on wealthier seniors by 15 percent in 2017 and to continue to raise the eligibility requirements until 25 percent of seniors are paying the highest possible premiums under Medicare.

Currently, the threshold is $170,000 per year for an elderly couple. Obama’s plan would keep these thresholds from rising with inflation in order to trap more seniors in the highest premium group.

In 2012, those higher premiums range from $139 to $319 for doctor visits [Part B], depending on a retired person’s income and whether they were still married or whether they had been widowed.

For seniors who were no longer married, the premiums paid for doctor and hospital visits ranged from $40 to $220 per month in 2012.

Similarly, Obama plans to impose the highest possible cost for prescription drugs on 25 percent of seniors.

Currently, those high-income premiums range from just $11.90 for a senior who is single to a maximum of $66 per month for an elderly couple.