One problem with delayed Social Security claims: Risk of higher Medicare Part B premiums

Delaying your Social Security benefit as long as possible is a great way to boost retirement income, but the strategy comes with one built-in downside. Most seniors enroll in Medicare at 65, but those who are not yet receiving Social Security run the risk of much larger annual increases in their Part B premiums.

Healthcare inflation is resurgent, and more retirees are delaying their Social Security claims. So that leaves a question: how significant is the risk of higher Medicare costs, and does it ever justify an earlier-than-planned Social Security claim?

In most cases, the risk is small, and the benefits of a delayed filing far outweigh the higher healthcare costs. I asked Social Security Solutions, one of the leading Social Security optimization services, to run scenarios for hypothetical couples. We found that the net drag is modest – anywhere from 4 to 6 percent of the higher Social Security benefit gained through delay.

“Delaying your benefit is more than likely worth paying the hold-harmless penalty,” said Robin Brewton, vice president of client services at Social Security Solutions. “It’s important to run your own numbers, because everyone’s scenario will be different, but in most cases it won’t make sense to claim earlier to protect yourself from higher Medicare costs.”

Learn more about how this works in my column this week for Reuters Money.


  1. Bruce King says:

    Mark, can you give some examples where waiting would not be worthwhile for Medicare Hold Harmless?

  2. Mark Miller says:

    Bruce, situations where the Medicare beneficiary is subject to high-income premium surcharges. In most other cases, it is not worthwhile to drive the decision around the hold harmless provision. And, as mentioned in the column, in years where the Social Security COLA is normal (and that is most of the time), the hold harmless provision doesn’t pose a major risk to people paying regular Part B premiums.

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