Etheridge votes to stop Medicare increase

Washington, D.C. — Rep. Bob Etheridge (D-Lillington), the only North Carolina member of the House Ways and Means Committee, joined an overwhelming majority of the House of Representatives on Friday to pass the Medicare Premium Fairness Act, H.R. 3631.

The legislation was approved by a vote 406-18.

“Rising health care costs affect our seniors and retirees at a time when they can least afford it,” said Etheridge. “Congress must take action to ensure seniors can live in dignity and comfort.”

Under current law, there will be no cost-of-living increase for Social Security in 2010, but many Medicare recipients would see increases in their Medicare Part B premiums. For those who receive Social Security and Medicare, this would result in a cut in their net benefit. The bi-partisan House vote would eliminate all premium increases for Medicare Part B, which provides coverage for doctor’s visits, so that seniors’ purchasing power is not eroded.

Currently, 42 million seniors and people with disabilities are enrolled in Medicare Part B. The standard Part B premium for 2009 is $96.40 per month (higher for individuals with incomes over $85,000 or $170,000 for couples). By law, the premium is calculated each year to cover approximately 25 percent of the cost of the Medicare program. H.R. 3631 would suspend this requirement for 2010.

H.R. 3631 has been endorsed by AARP, the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare (NCPSSM), the Center for Medicare Advocacy (CMA), and the National Active and Retired Federal Employees (NARFE) Association. The legislation now heads to the Senate, where the Finance Committee is expected consider the bill.