What happens if you are a high-income Medicare beneficiary who is paying a surcharge on your premiums and then your income changes? If your circumstances change, you can reverse those surcharges.
Higher-income Medicare beneficiaries (individuals who earn more than $85,000) pay higher Part B and prescription drug benefit premiums than lower-income Medicare beneficiaries. The extra amount the beneficiary owes increases as the beneficiary’s income increases. The Social Security Administration uses income reported two years ago to determine a beneficiary’s premiums. So the income reported on a beneficiary’s 2017 tax return is used to determine whether the beneficiary must pay a higher monthly premium in 2019.
A lot can happen in two years. If your income decreases significantly due to certain circumstances, you can request that the Social Security Administration recalculate your benefits. For example, if you earned $90,000 in 2017 but your income dropped to $50,000 in 2018, you can request an income review and your premium surcharges for 2019 could be eliminated. Income is calculated by taking a beneficiary’s adjusted gross income and adding back in some normally excluded income, such as tax-exempt interest, U.S. savings bond interest used to pay tuition, and certain income from foreign sources.
You can request a review of your income if any of the following circumstances occurred:
- You married, divorced, or became widowed
- You or your spouse stopped working or reduced your work hours
- You or your spouse lost income-producing property because of a disaster or other event beyond your control
- You or your spouse experienced a scheduled cessation, termination, or reorganization of an employer’s pension plan
- You or your spouse received a settlement from an employer or former employer because of the employer’s closure, bankruptcy, or reorganization
If your income changes due to any of the above reasons, you can submit documentation verifying the change in income — including tax documents, letter from employer, or death certificate — to the Social Security Administration using this form (click here). If the change is approved, it will be retroactive to January of the year you made the request.
It should be noted that large one-time income events, such as the sale of a farm, family business, or highly appreciated stock are generally not eligible for a recalculation of the Medicare premium. However, an individual can still challenge the increase by filing a Request for Reconsideration (Form SSA-561-U2). Even if the premium is not reduced, though, the increase is unlikely to be more than one year as the income thresholds for Medicare premiums are re-evaluated annually.
Jeff is Certified as an Elder Law Attorney (CELA) by the National Elder Law Foundation, a distinction held by only a handful of lawyers in Indiana. For almost 20 years, he has focused on elder law, estate planning, long-term care planning, Medicaid planning, Veterans Affairs benefits planning, special needs planning, guardianships, and estate administration.