Medicare Part B premiums devour Social Security increase, survey shows

“They’ve had nothing left over to deal with other increased costs,” said Mary Johnson, Social Security and Medicare policy analyst for the Senior Citizens League, which surveyed 1,116 retirees across the country earlier this year.

The reason for the premiums devouring all or much of the extra Social Security amount is due largely to the so-called hold harmless rule that’s been triggered in recent years.

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For most retirees — about 70 percent of them — the rule prevents Medicare Part B premiums from rising more than their Social Security cost-of-living adjustment, commonly called COLA.

Higher earners, who pay extra for their premiums, are not protected by the hold harmless rule. (See chart for what higher earners pay.) Nor are certain others, including those who first sign up for Medicare right before an increase takes effect.

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