Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Washington Sticking It To Seniors (With Surprising Update)

This hits home, literally. The recent announcements from Social Security and Medicare raise multiple issues, but the very local bottom line amounts to what for me is a hefty cost, as my medical insurance monthly rate will increase by 50%.

 As per stories like this one in the Washington Post, Social Security announced there will be no cost of living increase in payments next year, because the Consumer Price Index formula they use says that costs haven't gone up.

 Then in the very next breath, the Medicare branch of Social Security announced that medical costs have gone up for them so much that the charge for Medicare part B (covers doctors) will be raised from around $100 to over $150 a month.

 The logic of this is incredible. Cost of living hasn't gone up, and mine has just gone up by $50 a month. First of all, anybody alive in California and most places in the US know that costs of almost everything essential have been going up all year--you know, little things like food, clothing and shelter. Just about the only thing that hasn't increased lately is gasoline.

 So where does gas figure in the costs of seniors I wonder? Except for the RV crowd, not very high--certainly not as high as food, clothing and shelter--and medical care.

 The situation is crazier because not all seniors will feel this Medicare increase--just some of those collecting Social Security, and all of those of us who aren't yet but have Medicare. We're waiting to claim when the benefits get a little higher. They will still be inadequate, but they'll be a little higher. Except thanks to this increase, they won't be even as much as they would have been--because this premium raise will be deducted from those monthly checks, which otherwise haven't been increased because the cost of living hasn't gone up. Right.

 So let's review: Congratulations, the cost of living hasn't gone up so neither does your Social Security check. And incidentally, we'll be deducting an extra $55 or so from your check because our medical insurance costs have gone up by 50%. It's a new definition of fixed income.

 I'm paying Medicare B even though I've yet to use it but that's perhaps beside the point. It's insurance. Still I'm one of the unlucky ones who gets to pay even more--a lot more.

 As this Post story indicates, some people in the federal government--in the White House, even in Congress--recognize the multiple injustices in these announcements. But thanks to our non-functional Congress, the chance of something actually being done in a timely fashion to correct any or all of this, approaches the vanishing point. Like an indecent proportion of my limited income.

Update 10/30: A unique set of circumstances--the retiring GOP House Speaker leaving a "screw you" as he walked out the door, to the rabid rightists who made his life hell being the main one--allowed for swift passage of a budget deal through both houses (with mostly Democratic votes--a situation that could have happened anytime in the past several years.)  Part of the bill was a provision rolling back this $54 a month price rise for Medicare B, though there is a larger than usual uptick--$18 a month.  Still not nothing, and still not fair, but better than it was.  And totally unexpected.   Democrats, by the way, pushed for this provision, and Democratic votes passed it, with a relative few Republicans in the House especially.

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