Legislative Update: January 2021

Legislative Update: January 2021

Emergency 3% COLA, Social Security And Medicare Issues Land on the Congressional Priority List

By Shannon Benton, Executive Director

Before the New Year even started, TSCL had been working to convince Members of our new Congress of the immediate need to replace 2021’s meager 1.3% cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) with a 3% emergency inflation adjustment.  We strongly support “The 3% Emergency COLA Act,” introduced by Representatives Peter DeFazio (OR-4) and John Larson (CT-1) and efforts to include provisions of this bill in emergency stimulus funding legislation.

Older adults age 65 and up have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.  Because retirees depend on Social Security for a major share of their income, they tend to spend their benefits on essentials right away.  We feel that boosting the inflation adjustment is an important way to get crucial extra cash to older Americans and back into our nation’s economy.

TSCL is closely watching for the introduction of proposals to strengthen Social Security and Medicare benefits and program financing.  While financing issues for both programs are daunting, we believe that funding for both can be strengthened without deep benefit cuts.  “Increasing benefits for all” was a key platform plank for the majority of the Representatives in the House, roughly half the Senate, and, our President elect.  In coming months, TSCL plans to hold the lawmakers accountable for how they plan to turn this promise into reality for older Americans.

Reducing Medicare costs remains a top piece of unfinished business for TSCL.  While Congress was successful in restraining a double-digit Medicare Part B increase in 2021, capping the increase at $3.90 per month rather than $15.60 more per month — I was particularly troubled to learn that $3.00 of the $3.90 Part B increase is a “repayment” charge.  While TSCL congratulates Congress for passing legislation to hold the monthly Part B increase down, at least temporarily, the Part B increase wasn’t “forgiven”.  The balance that won’t be paid in 2021 will be recovered through a $3.00 per month repayment which will be tacked onto future Part B increases.  That could take years.

We know from past surveys and email comments that you want the freedom to choose how you receive your Medicare benefits — either through a Medigap supplement and Part D plan, or a Medicare Advantage plan that includes drug coverage.  Nobody wants to get a cancellation notice or to give up their doctor, hospital or other important provider because their health plan is closing.  Maintaining affordable access to quality healthcare coverage is the key issue for every Medicare beneficiary and for TSCL.  Coming up with a plan to pay for all this is the hard part which depends heavily on how quickly we can get our economy up and running full speed again and get people back to work.

Please take time to participate in TSCL’s much anticipated Senior Survey.  TSCL’s surveys have helped burst the all too common perception that Social Security benefit cuts are inevitable in order to achieve program solvency.  TSCL surveys indicate that there is little support among older adults for proposals that would cut Social Security or Medicare benefits, or to replace these programs with private versions.  TSCL will fight attempts to cut benefits, and that includes cutting COLAs reducing Social Security benefits or increasing Medicare costs.

Your responses to our annual Senior Surveys are a key means to helping us convince Congress to move forward on key issues.  Please take our 2021 Senior Survey.