top of page
  • Writer's pictureJohn J. Diak, CFP®

Understanding IRMAA: Financial Considerations for High-Earning Medicare Members


Understanding IRMAA: Financial Considerations for High-Earning Medicare Members

Embarking on the journey of retirement can present unique financial and tax considerations, especially for those who have accrued substantial wealth or have access to a higher income than the average retiree. Among these factors, the Income-Related Monthly Adjustment Amount (IRMAA), a special monthly fee, is particularly significant for high-earning Medicare members. Collaborating with a financial professional to navigate the IRMAA and its impact on your finances can be a wise move. Still, it's equally important to grasp the basics yourself, especially when it comes to optimizing your Medicare benefits.


IRMAA's Impact on Medicare Beneficiaries


IRMAA is an extra charge or surcharge applied to the premiums of high-income Medicare beneficiaries enrolled in Part B and/or Part D plans. In 2023, if you're an individual with income exceeding $97,000 or a married couple filing jointly with income above $194,000, you'll pay a premium ranging between $230.80 and $560.50 for both Parts B and D. This amount is determined by your Modified Adjusted Gross Income (MAGI). This threshold has seen a rise from $91,000 in previous years, reflecting adjustments for inflation.


Your 2021 tax return's Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) can help you determine your MAGI for the 2023 IRMAA brackets. To this AGI, add the interest accrued from U.S. Savings Bonds used for higher education, tax-free earned interest, income earned while living abroad, and income from other sources not considered in your AGI.


Those falling within specific income brackets may face additional costs through the IRMAA. This could significantly impact healthcare expenses during retirement, particularly those with higher incomes or income-producing assets.


Why IRMAA Matters and Strategies for Reducing It


IRMAA is crucial because it can considerably increase healthcare costs for retirees no longer covered by an employer's plan. However, there's a silver lining. By understanding and implementing specific strategies to reduce or appeal the determination, you can avoid unnecessary overpayments and make informed financial decisions.


Keeping an Eye on IRMAA

Being mindful of your MAGI and potential exposure to IRMAA surcharges is essential in retirement planning, especially if you anticipate being near the income threshold. By understanding how these additional charges could impact your Medicare premiums, you can adopt proactive measures to minimize them.


Appealing IRMAA Based on Life-Changing Events

Experiencing a significant life-changing event, such as marriage, divorce, the death of a spouse, or the loss of income-producing property due to a natural disaster, may make you eligible to appeal your IRMAA determination. This could potentially lower or even eliminate your surcharge.


Strategies to Lower Your MAGI


By employing certain financial strategies, you may be able to decrease your healthcare costs under Medicare Parts B and D. Lowering your MAGI can help reduce or avoid the IRMAA. Here are a few strategies worth considering:


Tax-Deductible Retirement Contributions: Evaluate potential tax-deductible retirement contributions to accounts like 401(k)s and IRAs.


Charitable Giving: By donating assets directly from an IRA or offering your appreciated securities, you can effectively lower your taxable income.

  • Qualified Charitable Distributions (QCDs), available to those aged 70 ½ or older, let you donate up to $100,000 annually from your Traditional IRA to non-profits. Using QCDs for your required minimum distributions (RMDs) can help reduce IRMAA and future RMDs, lowering your MAGI. The bonus? QCDs are tax-free and lessen the effect of RMDs on higher IRMAA brackets for Medicare recipients.

  • Donor-Advised Funds are charitable giving accounts facilitated by financial institutions. They allow lump-sum contributions with tax deductions and gradual distribution to charities over time, which helps in reducing your MAGI and avoiding future IRMAA adjustments. Accepting both cash and securities, these funds come with deduction limits and allow the carry-over of excess donations to future years.

Tax-Efficient Investing & Withdrawal Techniques: If appropriate, consider making use of tax-free municipal bonds, strategically withdraw funds from various account types, and manage your capital gains taxes in your favor. For instance, tax gain harvesting is a lesser-known strategy that can decrease your MAGI by selling investments at a long-term capital gains tax rate of 0%, essentially meaning you potentially won't pay any taxes on the profits.


Roth Conversions: Required minimum distributions (RMDs) are often the trigger for IRMAA surcharges. By converting funds from a Traditional IRA to a Roth IRA, you can potentially lower your MAGI and soften the impact of IRMAA assessments in future years, as Roth distributions are not subject to IRMAA calculations. Traditional IRA account owners have considerations to make before performing a Roth IRA conversion. These primarily include income tax consequences on the converted amount in the year of conversion, withdrawal limitations from a Roth IRA, and income limitations for future contributions to a Roth IRA. In addition, if you are required to take a required minimum distribution (RMD) in the year you convert, you must do so before converting to a Roth IRA.


Delaying Social Security: By holding off on starting your Social Security, you can decrease your MAGI, and consequently lessen the effect of IRMAA assessments in the years to come.

These strategies are not one-size-fits-all, so consulting with a financial professional can be important in understanding which ones best align with your financial situation and retirement goals. If you believe your IRMAA determination is incorrect or outdated due to life-changing events, such as divorce or the death of a spouse, it might be necessary to appeal. In such instances, leaning on the expertise of a financial advisor and tax professionals specializing in this area can help pursue the best possible outcome.


Navigating Medicare Premiums with Professional Guidance


Medicare Parts B and D premiums, including IRMAA, can be complex. It's beneficial to consult experienced financial advisors and tax professionals to ensure you're well-informed about your healthcare expenses. They can guide you through the evolving landscape of Medicare costs, offering tailored advice on how changes in your adjusted gross income might influence your premium payments.



John J. Diak, CFP® is the Principal & Client Wealth Manager at Oatley & Diak, LLC in Parker, Colorado. He assists clients through many difficult lifestyle changes such as business downturns, retirement planning, divorce, the death of a spouse, and family estate issues among others. Oatley & Diak, LLC is a family-run registered investment advisory (RIA) firm that provides clients with investment management and financial planning services in a hands-on, intimate environment. Learn more about them at oatleydiak.com.


The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.


This material was prepared by Crystal Marketing Solutions, LLC, and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate and is intended merely for educational purposes, not as advice.

bottom of page