Question from Richard H. from Fishers: My wife and I are both retired, drawing social security and on Medicare. How will the new mandates affect us?
Response from Jamie Ianigro: Beginning in 2014, every adult must have health insurance that meets minimum standards of coverage or pay a penalty when filing their tax returns. The tax penalty starts at $95 or 1 percent of your yearly income, whichever is greater. The penalty increases during the next two years as the law currently stands.
The nice thing for the people on Medicare is how little all of this will actually affect them. Being enrolled in Medicare fulfills your individual mandate and keeps you out of the tax penalty box each year. Reform also has added free preventive services and annual wellness visits under Medicare. These benefits were rolled out in January 2011.
Annual wellness visits are designed to allow you to meet with your physician annually to develop a personalized plan for improving and/or maintaining your health. This visit includes routine measurements, reviewing and updating your family medical history, a personal risk assessment, a review of your current abilities and getting referrals to additional services you may need.
Preventative services are the other piece that has been added to your Medicare plan as a no cost-sharing benefit. These include mammograms every 12 months, cardiovascular disease screenings, colonoscopies, cervical cancer screenings, cholesterol testing, diabetes screenings, flu shots, bone mass measurements and many other benefits.
Additional benefits do have a cost, but those costs are passed on to people still paying Medicare taxes. The Medicare tax rate was increased at the end of 2012. A single individual pays Medicare taxes on all income up to $125,000. Those that are married and filing jointly have a threshold of $250,000.
The new mandates also don’t take any shots at the social security trust fund. It is unlikely that social security will remain unchanged forever, but the trust fund is expected to be solvent until 2033 under the current rules and regulations. The fund is expected to begin bringing in less money than it pays out starting in the early 2020s.