Congressional Corner: Fixing COLAs & Protecting Seniors Against Rising Healthcare Costs

Congressional Corner: Fixing COLAs & Protecting Seniors Against Rising Healthcare Costs

By Representative Donald Norcross (NJ-01)

As you may have heard, Social Security recipients received a cost-of-living increase this year.  This is good news for seniors, but it’s not good enough.

Our seniors worked hard all their lives and paid into the system – they’ve earned the right to true peace of mind.  But the COLA formula in place right now just isn’t providing that peace of mind.  It’s imbalanced and creating uncertainly for millions of Americans.

Since 2010, seniors have failed to receive a COLA increase three times.  When a COLA increase did occur, it has never met seniors’ needs.  In 2016, the increase was a meager 0.3% and it was only 2% in 2017.

Year after year, seniors are struggling with higher-priced groceries, copays, deductibles and prescription medications.  To make matters worse, Republicans in Congress are passing bills that raise healthcare and housing costs for seniors.

Medicare Part B premiums increased to $134 month in 2017 – and the higher costs continue to hit older adults, including a large number of low-income individuals who struggle to make ends meet.  For these seniors who live paycheck-to-paycheck on Social Security, our failed system means they’re facing impossible choices.  A meal or medicine?  A raincoat or rent payment?

I hate that we’re placing seniors in no-win situations, and that’s why I’ve re-introduced My Seniors’ Security Act.  It ensures that COLA increases aren’t just eaten up by rising health care costs and it recalculates COLAs completely. Specifically, my act would create a ‘circuit breaker’ of sorts, so seniors never lose more than 30% of their COLA to Medicare premiums.

The act also recalculates COLAs so future changes would be based on the price of goods and services seniors actually buy, like medications, by using a formula known as Consumer Price Index for the Elderly (CPI-E).  Currently, the COLA is based on CPI-W, which evaluates the entire economy, including infant and toddler apparel, nursery care, toys and school fees.

Why should seniors be saddled with the ripple effect of things they don’t even buy?  That just doesn’t make sense.

The Senior Citizens League and the Alliance for Retired Americans endorse my Seniors’ Security Act because they know what I do – that our seniors should be enjoying their golden years, not worrying about how they’ll pay their bills and stay in their homes.

While others want to privatize and dismantle Social Security, I’m fighting to honor our commitments to retirees and fix a broken system.


The opinions expressed in “Congressional Corner” reflect the views of the writer and are not necessarily those of TSCL.