Last week the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill that would freeze Medicare Part B premiums in 2010 for 11 million seniors, rather than permitting an increase for beneficiaries that ultimately would cause reductions in their Social Security checks.

Medicare was expected to announce higher Part B premiums next month, which typically are deducted from Social Security checks. Premiums and Social Security payments generally increase each year, but a drop in the consumer price index will result in no cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for Social Security recipients next year. Subsequently, retirees would not get a COLA adjustment to accompany the premium increases for the first time in 35 years. This would result in lower Social Security checks.

The bill now moves to the Senate. Aides from both parties said it is unclear when the legislation will be considered or how favorable the vote will be.