IRMAA: What It Is & How To Reduce It Or Remove

Hi friends and clients! I hope your summer is going well. I wanted to share some information about a subject that has come up a number of times in the last few weeks. I thought you might find it useful.

The Income Related Monthly Adjustment Amount known as IRMAA was implemented by the federal government in 2003 and then expanded in 2013 in an effort to strengthen the financial stability of the Medicare program. Higher income seniors are asked to pay more than the standard Medicare Part B premium and an additional amount for the Medicare Part D prescription drug program. These over-and-above amounts are your IRMAA. If Social Security (SSA) determines that you should pay an IRMAA, they will notify you in writing with their Initial IRMAA Determination. To determine if IRMAA applies, Social Security looks at your Modified Adjusted Gross Income (MAGI) from your federal tax return from two years prior. MAGI is your Adjusted Gross Income with some deductions added back. (For most people, this will be your AGI). Your IRMAA is adjusted annually for the next calendar year; usually looking back at returns from two years prior.

If you have experienced a life-changing event that caused your income to decrease, or if you think the income information Social Security used to determine your IRMAA was incorrect or outdated, we encourage clients to request an IRMAA redetermination of the initial determination. There is no harm in trying!

The following are valid life-changing events SSA will consider in redetermining IRMAA:

  • Marriage, Death of a spouse, Divorce or annulment
  • You or your spouse stopping work or reducing the number of hours you work
  • Involuntary loss of income-producing property due to a natural disaster, disease, fraud, or other circumstances
  • Loss of pension
  • Receipt of settlement payment from a current or former employer due to the employer’s closure or bankruptcy

A proper request for redetermination requires evidence of the event (such as certified marriage certificate, death certificate or divorce decree), and proof of the lower income or an estimate of your lower income. Evidence of lower income could be a copy of an amended tax return with the IRS or a more recent tax return that shows you are receiving a lower income than what is used in Social Security’s determination. If you expect your income will not change until the current year, you can give SSA an estimate of what you think your income will be.

This written proof needs to be submitted with a completed and signed Life-Changing Event form (SA44). You can access this form on this government webpage: Follow the instructions for completing and submitting the form.

There is no strict timeline that Social Security must respond by and IRMAA premiums must be paid while a reconsideration is in process.

If your redetermination is successful, your premium amounts will be corrected. If your request is denied, you will be notified in writing. Follow the directions in the denial letter to file an appeal. Go here for more information about appealing denials of your initial request for redetermination:


Phil Dougherty

Don’t forget Travel Insurance if you are planning a trip overseas! Email or call us for more information and a quote!


Here are two web pages to learn more about IRMAA:

Q1 Medicare:


Vaccines Covered by Medicare

Medicare Part B and Part D cover most vaccines and immunizations. It’s important to understand which part of Medicare covers which vaccines.

Vaccines covered by Medicare Part B

Part B covers specific vaccinations including the seasonal flu shot, pneumonia, and Hepatitis B. Below are the standard regiments for these vaccines per the CDC:

  • Flu vaccine: Annual vaccine given in one shot before or during flu season, usually November through April
  • Pneumonia vaccine: One-time vaccine given in two shots at least one year apart
  • Hepatitis B vaccine: One-time vaccine given in two to four shots recommended for people with high risk factors. 

Part B also covers the COVID – 19 vaccine including boosters with no cost-sharing. Here is more information about COVID vaccines:

Finally, Part B covers any vaccines necessary after a potentially dangerous exposure—like a rabies or tetanus shot. A Medicare supplement may cover any remaining balance for the shot.

Vaccines covered by Medicare Part D

The Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Program covers other vaccines recommended by your provider (that aren’t already covered by Part B) for illness prevention. Most notably Shingles and Tdap.

Below are the standard regiments for these vaccines per the CDC:

  • Shingles vaccine: One-time vaccine given in two shots over two to six months
  • Tdap vaccine (tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis/whooping cough): One shot if you’ve never been vaccinated, and a booster every ten years

Part D may also cover vaccines that are “reasonable and necessary” to prevent illness and are not covered by Part B. These may include vaccines you may need if traveling internationally. Talk with your doctor about your travel plans and ask what vaccines are recommended.

Where Do I Go? You can get most vaccines at a pharmacy, doctor’s office, clinic, or community health center. Talk with your doctor first about the vaccines recommended for you.

Latest: Beginning January 1, 2023, patients with Medicare Part D drug plans will not have any out-of-pocket costs for these vaccines per the Inflation Reduction Act. Regardless of the Part D plan you have, a Medicare beneficiary will no longer pay a deductible or copay.

How They Relate: Original Medicare and Providers

One of the most common questions we get regarding Medicare Supplements (MediGap) is what providers can be accessed for care. Many assume that a Medicare Supplement from Blue Shield or Anthem Blue Cross requires using their respective doctor networks. In fact, Medicare Supplements don’t have their own provider network; you can see any Medicare contracted provider. It is the relationship between the provider and Medicare that is key and important to understand.

There are three different possible relationships a provider can have with Medicare, and they can directly impact what you pay for medical services. These relationships are called: Participating, Non-Participating, and Opt-Out providers.

A Participating provider is contracted with Medicare and has agreed to accept Medicare’s fee schedule (also known as “accepting assignment”) as payment in full for all Medicare covered services. They cannot charge more than assignment and patients would only be responsible for deductibles and coinsurance amounts. These providers must submit claims to Medicare for the patient and typically wait for Medicare to pay its share before billing the patient.

Non-Participating providers are also contracted with Medicare but do not accept Medicare assignment and may charge up to 15% above assignment (called excess charges) for services, but no more. They may ask for the full payment at the time of service and are not required to submit claims for patients.

Providers who have “opted out” have chosen not to work with Medicare. They cannot bill Medicare and Medicare will not pay for services (except for emergencies). Patients should be prepared to pay 100% of the bill. Providers who opt out do so for a minimum of two years at which point they can choose to remain as an “opt out” provider, contract with Medicare as a participating provider or as a non-participating provider.

For those of you with Medicare Supplement Plan F or Plan G, be reassured that in addition to deductibles and co-insurance, excess charges from Non-Participating Providers is covered in full. However, Medicare Supplements will not pay if Medicare does not pay first. Therefore, when seeing a provider that has opted out of Medicare, the Medicare Supplement will not pay benefits either.

Providers are required to tell you prior to receiving services, what relationship they have with Medicare. I hope this article helps in understanding how that may affect you.

All the best in the New Year,


PS: Don’t forget Travel Insurance on your next trip abroad! Contact us for a quote!

Inflation Reduction Act Brings Changes to Part D

The Inflation Reduction Act is bringing a series of revisions to the Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Program that will be phased in over the next six years.

The immediate modifications beginning January 1, 2023, include:

  • Insulin copays will be limited to $35/month for ALL Part D Prescription Drug Plans. Previously, the copay was only available in select plans.
  • Improved coverage for vaccines in Medicare Part D
    • Recommended vaccines (not covered under Medicare Part B) including Shingles and Tdap, will be free for people enrolled in a Medicare Part D prescription drug plan.
    • Medicare Part B already covers many vaccines including: the seasonal flu shot, pneumonia, and Hepatitis B

Other provisions are intended to reduce Part D spending. Here are highlights of changes to come:

2024: Eliminates the 5% co-insurance in the catastrophic level of Part D plans

2024 – 2030: Limits Medicare Part D drug plan increases to no more than 6% per year

2025: Establishes a $2,000 out-of-pocket cap on annual drug costs (currently no cap)

2026 – 2029: Implements negotiated pricing for certain high-cost drugs

We’ll keep you informed when more information about these revisions is released.

Lastly, with the forthcoming holiday season we want to remind our clients with plans to travel abroad to stay properly insured. Visit our travel insurance webpage or shoot Patricia an email (

Medicare vs. Medicare Advantage

Most of you reading this have Medicare as your primary insurance with a Medicare Supplement to fill in gaps. We have been advocates for this type of arrangement for nearly 30 years for its high level of insurance and the extensive provider access it provides.

As we approach open enrollment season, you will undoubtedly be receiving a deluge of mailings, be exposed to TV advertisements, and even phone and text messages about Medicare related health plans that seemingly cover everything for a low, low price. These are most likely Medicare Advantage plans that fall under Part C of Medicare. These should not be confused with your insurance program. It is an entirely different way one receives their Medicare health benefits and I want to share with you some important differences.

Medicare Advantage is a strategy promoted by Medicare to transfer health care costs to the private market. In essence, you “transfer” your Medicare benefits (Part A, Part B, and Part D) over to a private insurance company who is then responsible for delivering your care. Medicare subsidizes these plans with your Medicare allotted benefits.

Medicare Advantage plans include hospital and medical benefits, and usually include prescription drug coverage. They most always include additional ancillary benefits and services such as vision, hearing, acupuncture, transportation, gym memberships, and more. By being subsidized by the government, premiums can be as little as zero dollars per month. So, what’s the catch?

The promotions often fail to accurately explain their restrictions and limitations. Provider access and financial exposure are the most misunderstood aspects of Medicare Advantage plans. First, many of these plans are HMO’s that restrict your provider access to a local network that require referrals to specialists from a Primary Care Provider (PCP). In some counties PPO style options are available that don’t require referrals but will have separate in and out of network benefit schedules. In a Medicare Advantage plan your share of costs may include deductibles, copays, and coinsurance. All MA plans will have a maximum out-of-pocket that protect you against major claim years BUT, I have seen MA plans with maximums over $7000 per year.

Compare this with Medicare as your primary insurance which gives you access to any Medicare contracted provider in the country. And, when combined with a Medicare Supplement, can provide virtually 100% coverage for hospital and medical expenses. Standalone Part D drug plans can be added to help with outpatient prescriptions. Although this combination can be higher in monthly premiums, you have the peace of mind knowing in a high-claim year your out-of-pocket costs can be minimal.

Marketing tactics purposely attempt to cause confusion in order for the “target” to reach for the phone. Phone calls with MA sales reps can lead to be more confusion and often failing to educate the consumer of the consequences of enrollment…losing your Medicare Supplement and Part D drug coverage (you can’t have both).

Medicare Advantage plans aren’t necessarily a wrong choice, but they are not the same insurance as what you are used to and they are not always easily interchangeable. Medicare Advantage plans are a different way to receive your Medicare benefits and in a way you may not want. Read the plan’s summary of benefits first before making your decision and call us if you have any questions.

Travel with Peace of Mind

Let the adventures begin! Travel is back to pre-pandemic levels according to several travel related sources. While you make your international travel arrangements, don’t forget to include travel medical insurance in your planning.

Alert! Original Medicare (Part A + Part B) does not provide coverage abroad. And Medicare Supplements offer a small benefit which we believe to be insufficient.

Travel medical insurance provides another layer of medical insurance as well as evacuation coverage for medical and emergency situations plus 24/7 support. Check out our new video below where we answer frequently asked questions regarding travel medical insurance.  And visit our webpage devoted to the products we recommend:

Or, give us a call for a free quote and advice!

These days more than ever “peace of mind” while traveling is invaluable. Let us help you arrange it with travel insurance.

Safe Travels!

Phil & Patricia