Consumer Confidential: Medicare rates, peanut butter prices


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Here’s your I’ll-take-you-there Tuesday roundup of consumer news from around the Web:

-- Good news for seniors: Premiums for Medicare Part B coverage for physician and outpatient services will increase less than projected next year. Also, the deductible will actually decrease. Premiums will go up $3.50, to $99.90 per month for 2012. The Medicare Trustees report had previously projected an increase of $10.20, to $106.60 for 2012. Premiums have not increased for retirees since 2009. The premium for new retirees in 2011 was $115.40; this group of retirees will now pay the standard premium of $99.90 per month, for a reduction of $15.50 in their monthly premium. And the Medicare Part B deductible decreased by $22, from $162 last year to $140 for 2012.


-- Your PB&J is about to get pricier. Sharp increases in peanut butter prices have begun going into effect after one of the worst peanut harvests in decades. Kraft is raising prices for its Planters brand peanut butter by 40%, while ConAgra has instituted increases of more than 20% for its Peter Pan brand. J.M. Smucker, which makes Jif, is introducing price hikes of about 30%. Consumers, meanwhile, are already seeing these increases reflected at grocery stores. Americans spend almost $800 million on peanut butter and consume an average of more than 6 pounds of peanut products each year, according to the National Peanut Board, a farmer-funded research group.

-- David Lazarus