The new buget bill signed by President Obama comes with provisions on Social Security and Medicare laws. The public ought to be informed of these changes in order to avoid being denied from benefits. This could spell a huge blow to the annual expenditures of many middle- and low-income families.
Here are the most important changes that all Americans need to know about:
1. File and suspend strategy is no longer a viable option: also known as the Claim Now, Claim More later strategy, this is used by an applicant who files for Social Security benefits, then immediately suspends it. The brief application then allows one's spouse to file for spousal benefits while letting the original applicant's own retirement benefits grow by 8 percent annually, leaving the couple with a higher benefit payout in the long run.
With the signing of the new bill, filers who are at least 62 years old only have up to May 1 of next year to apply for this benefit, as this option will be phased out soon.
"[Under the new law,] no one will be able to voluntarily 'file and suspend' benefits (to trigger) a spousal benefit for a spouse; or (to protect) the right to file for retroactive benefits," said Jamie Hopkins of the American College of Financial Services regarding the new provision in the law.
2. Restricted application will be lifted. Current law states that individuals who can apply for both spousal and retirement benefits have the option to pick which one they prefer. To maximize the benefits they can receive, some couples or divorcees who are eligible but not yet at maximum retirement age would file for spousal benefits while letting their retirement benefits grow for a bigger payout later on.
Of course, this will also change with the new bill.
"Under the new law, however, only those born Jan. 1, 1954, or earlier can use this option," Robert Powell explained in his article for USA Today. "Anyone younger will just automatically get the larger of the two benefits."
3. Social Security benefits will drop. Everyone can expect that their benefits won't get a raise next year. Beneficiaries of the Social Security disability fund won't have to worry about losing money, either. To remedy the disability trust's problem with losing money, the new law shifted payroll tax revenue to the Disability Insurance Trust Fund to prevent the predicted 19 percent drop in benefits next year.
4. Medicare premium changes. At least 30 percent of Medicare beneficiaries expected an increase in Medicare Part B premiums and deductibles come 2016. But under the new law, these Part B beneficiaries will have to pay only $119 a month rather than $159.30. Beneficiaries can also expect an increase in annual deductibles by as much as 15 percent next year. However, they will also need to shell out an additional $3 a month to help pay off the loan the government lent Medicare to offset the lost revenue.
While the law will mostly come into effect in April 2016, it is important to be aware of the changes and to know one's eligibility for benefit options. Financial experts advise waiting for benefits to reach their maximum potential before claiming them. Senior citizens should also know if they are still eligible for the claiming strategies mentioned and consequently file for them as soon possible to get more out of their Social Security benefits.