Benefit Bulletin: January 2014

Benefit Bulletin: January 2014

TSCL Welcomes Strong New Voice For Seniors, Ed Cates

TSCL recently welcomed Ed Cates as the new Chairman of its all-volunteer Board of Directors. Here are a few of his thoughts on key issues that TSCL will be working on in 2014:

Q: How do you think a 1.5% cost-of-living adjustment (COLA), that only increases the average Social Security benefit by $18, will impact seniors in 2014?

A: The erosion of buying power of seniors, who are dependent on COLAs to keep up with rising costs, is a reality being ignored by everyone in government. My local utility is proposing a 5% increase in rates, Medicare Part B rates increase almost every year, prescription costs can increase almost monthly it seems, yet senior COLAs are held below the real inflation rate that affects us. Despite this, budget negotiations in Congress are targeting Social Security COLAs for cuts. Stopping the drive in Congress to cut COLAs is a key priority for TSCL in 2014.

Q: What do you think about the affordability of Medicare and the portion of income that retired people must pay for their healthcare?

A: Before Obamacare, I would have said Medicare costs are excessive. Now that Obamacare is being implemented, and we see the rates that the average younger family will pay, Medicare doesn't seem quite as onerous. Still, TSCL surveys confirm Medicare Trustee estimates that Medicare premiums and out-of-pocket costs take about one-quarter to one-third of the average Social Security benefit, and that's projected to grow even without changes. That leaves little left over for seniors to pay all of their bills.

Q: What do you feel are other key issues seniors face in 2014?

A: The terrible unemployment rate, which is still stuck at 7.2% – considerably higher than the 5% average from 2000-2007. Unemployment undermines the financing of both Social Security and Medicare benefits, because both programs depend on payroll taxes from workers and their employers. Jobs, not benefit cuts, should be at the top of the priority list for both the President and members of Congress.

Q: What would you say is your "pet peeve" issue?

A: The extreme complexity of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and Obamacare and the headlong rush to use the Internet is creating a whole new set of nightmares. Citizens should not be penalized for missing critical enrollment deadlines, especially when our government's technology spectacularly fails, as it did with the Obamacare rollout. Electronic payments have opened the doors to identity thieves who steal Social Security numbers of seniors and direct their payments into fraudulent accounts. Medicare numbers are stolen and used to bill Medicare for services never provided.

Q: Do you have anything else you would like to say to our readers?

A: "I'm looking forward to serving TSCL as Chairman and working to defending our earned benefits," Cates says.