Q: Will Prices Come Down In 2023?
A: Consumer price data through September of 2022 suggests that the rate of price increases gives no clear sign that inflation is abating yet. So far, there’s no indication that inflation will disappear like a popping balloon. Snarled supply chains have caused high demand, and inflation in virtually every industry has driven up costs, and the geo/political tensions in Eastern Europe and elsewhere show little sign of abating. Economists expect those supply problems to eventually resolve and inflation to fall back to normal range in 2023 and thereafter.
Q: What items have come down in price?
A: Gasoline prices came down in August and September according to consumer price data but have started to climb again. During July, August, and September, the federal government suspended an eighteen cents per gallon tax on gasoline for 90 days, but that ended in September.
TSCL remains highly concerned about the price of fuel oil. The cost of staying warm this winter is up 58% for homes heating with oil, and 33% for homes using natural gas.
Consumers still must hunt hard for any sign that other prices are dropping. The price of beef steaks — often the highest-priced cut of beef — dropped 4.8%, but ground beef on the other hand is still up 3.9%.
Q: What can older consumers do to cut food costs in the meantime?
A: Check local resources for food programs. Forty-two percent of survey participants said that rising food costs have forced them to cut back the number of meals consumed daily, according to TSCL’s latest Retirement Survey. But cutting back too much can backfire. Twenty percent of survey participants said that cutting back on food worsened health problems and led to new medial expenses. Instead, try to eat three small meals per day of filling, nutrient dense foods. Check your local food banks and area agencies on aging. There are many different types of food programs for older adults including some that let you shop for free groceries, senior food boxes, and help applying for SNAP benefits.
Q: What help is available for covering Medicare and other healthcare costs?
A: Help is available to cover Medicare premiums, as well as deductibles, coinsurance, and copayment costs if income is low enough. There are several levels of assistance based on income. Individuals with monthly incomes as high as $1,549, with resources of $8,400 or married couples with incomes of $2,080 and resources of $12,600 may qualify. To learn more about these programs and apply, contact your local Medicaid or Department of Family Services.
Medicare Extra Help covers most of the drug plan premium and significantly reduces out-of-pocket costs for covered drugs. Qualifying for this program is somewhat easier than Medicare Savings programs due to modestly higher financial limits. To learn more and apply, do so online at the Social Security website —https://www.ssa.gov/benefits/medicare/prescriptionhelp.html
Q: Where can I learn more about other programs that might help lower my costs?
A: Try the BenefitsCheckup website: https://benefitscheckup.org. BenefitsCheckUp® is a comprehensive online tool to screen and connect older adults and people with disabilities to benefits. The tool helps you learn about programs for which you may be eligible — and then helps you find out where to apply online or how to get help from a benefits counselor.