Are Medicare premiums rising due to inflation? ::

Republicans blame President Joe Biden for this year’s historic surge in inflation reflected in higher prices for almost everything — from cars and gas to food and housing. They see last month’s 6.2% annual inflation rate — the highest in decades and mostly driven by an increase in consumer spending and supply issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic — as a ticket to taking back control of Congress in next year’s midterm elections.

A key voting bloc will be older Americans, and the GOP aims to illustrate how much worse life has grown for them under the Biden administration.

Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., issued a press release Nov. 16 suggesting that rising general inflation was behind the large increase in next year’s standard premiums for Medicare Part B, which covers physician and some drug costs and other outpatient services.

“Sen. Rick Scott: America’s Seniors are Paying the Price for Biden’s Inflation Crisis,” was the headline. The senator’s statement within that press release said, “We need to be LOWERING health care and drug prices and strengthening this vital program for seniors and future generations, not crippling the system and leaving families to pay the cost.” The press release from Scott says he is “slamming Biden’s inaction to address the inflation crisis he and Washington Democrats have created with reckless spending and socialist policies, which is expected to cause significant price increases on senior citizens and Medicare recipients.” Scott’s statement in that same press release also says the administration’s “reckless spending” will leave U.S. seniors “paying HUNDREDS more for the care they need.”

We wondered whether these points were true. Was the climbing annual inflation rate over the past several months to blame for the increase in Medicare Part B premiums?

We reached out to Scott’s office for more detail, but we received no reply. Upon further investigation, we found there is little, if any, connection between general inflation in the past few months and the increase in Medicare Part B premiums.

What’s the status of Medicare premiums?

Medicare Part B premiums have been growing steadily for decades to keep up with rising health spending.

The U.S. inflation rate, for years held at bay, has been above 4% since April, hitting 6.2% in October, the highest rate in decades.

On Nov. 12, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services announced that the standard monthly premium for Medicare Part B would rise to $170.10 in 2022, from $148.50 this year. The 14.5% increase is the largest one-year increase in the program’s history.

Scott’s press release refers to the CMS report.

CMS cited three main factors for the increase: rising health care costs, a move by Congress last year that held the premium increase to just $3 a month because of the pandemic, and the need to raise money for a possible unprecedented surge in drug costs. Inflation was not on that list.

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In fact, half of the premium increase was due to making sure the program was ready in case Medicare next year decides to start…

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