According to the October 29 issue of the American Medical News, Medicare premiums for outpatient services will rise 3.1 percent next year, marking the smallest percentage increase in seven years. The standard Medicare Part B monthly premium will be $96.40 in 2008, an increase of $2.90 from the current level.

Though the increase is the lowest in several years, the monthly charges have nearly doubled since 2001 and are approaching the $100 threshold.

Medicare officials offered several factors for next year’s nearly $3 increase in beneficiaries’ monthly premiums. Estimated spending growth on physician-administered drugs, physicians’ office laboratory services and ambulatory surgery center services each was a contributing cause along with the growth in the home health and durable medical equipment sectors.

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