Hillary Clinton urges Congress to cap Medicare cost increases

US Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton attends a panel on healthcare in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on Sept 4, 2015.
US Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton attends a panel on healthcare in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on Sept 4, 2015. PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton on Friday urged Congress to rein in Medicare cost increases next year, expected to hit millions on the government health insurance program even as Social Security benefits stagnate.

Medicare expects Part B premiums, which cover doctor's visits and outpatient care, to rise 52 per cent next year, which could hit around 16.5 million people.

At the same time, a lack of inflation will keep beneficiaries of Social Security from keeping an increase in the amount they receive each month.

Because of how Medicare is structured, beneficiaries who rely most on Social Security will not see their premiums increase - leaving the remaining 30 per cent of enrollees to pay for cost increases.

"I am deeply concerned by how this could harm Medicare beneficiaries. This is outrageous and senseless, and Congress must act to fix the law," Clinton said in a statement. "I support efforts by the Obama administration and Democratic leaders in Congress to try to resolve this quickly."

Clinton has said that she would like to "enhance" Social Security benefits for the most vulnerable seniors, including women in poverty, but she has not yet detailed what those changes could look like.

Progressives - including Clinton's main rival, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders - have pushed her to say she would expand benefits.

Sanders has proposed increasing Social Security benefits, cost-of-living adjustments and minimum benefit levels, to be paid for by scrapping a ceiling on the amount of income considered taxable for Social Security.