Alexandria, VA (February 17, 2011) Forty-four percent of seniors report they are receiving lower Social Security checks compared to 2010 - even while dealing with significantly higher expenses. The findings are part of the annual 2011 Senior Survey just released by The Senior Citizens League (TSCL), one of the nation's largest nonpartisan senior citizen advocacy groups. Of the seniors reporting lower Social Security checks, about one quarter say their monthly benefit was reduced by more than $50 in 2011.
The lower Social Security checks this year reflect to a large extent the effect of rising Medicare Part D and Medicare Advantage premiums that are automatically deducted from benefits. Because Social Security recipients received no annual cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) in 2011, any increase in the Medicare premiums that are automatically deducted from their Social Security reduced the amount of their monthly payments.
Over the past decade, COLAs have increased benefits on average about 3% a year - enough to offset much of the cost of increasing Medicare premiums in most years. But in 2010 and in 2011, inflation was too low to pay the annual COLA, even though Medicare premiums, particularly for Part D and Medicare Advantage plans, continued to climb. The survey also found that even though inflation as the government measures it remained low, seniors experienced big jumps in their overall costs. More than 60% reported that their monthly expenses grew at least $80 over the past year. The trend of shrinking Social Security payments while expenses climb appear likely to continue into next year, warns TSCL Chairman Larry Hyland. "The Congressional Budget Office recently said that inflation will remain extremely low in 2012 with a forecast of just a 1.1% COLA," he notes.
TSCL's survey findings come on the heels of two recent fiscal commission proposals to cut the rate of growth in annual COLAs, and to make seniors pay more for their Medicare benefits, in order to reduce the U.S. budget deficit. "The survey illustrates exactly the type of financial impact those two proposals would have on seniors and future retirees," says Hyland. "Out-of-pocket medical costs are chipping away at Social Security benefits, even in the best of years," he points out. "When there is no COLA, or an extremely low one, any unexpected jump in Medicare spending and premium costs will require an ever-growing share of the Social Security payments," Hyland observes. Almost 70 percent of today's beneficiaries rely on Social Security for at least 50 percent of their income.
TSCL supports legislation that would provide an emergency COLA and opposes proposals that would cut COLAs. In addition, TSCL believes that changes are needed to ensure that Medicare continue to provide benefits and remain affordable to seniors in the future. To learn more and to get tips for saving on Medicare costs in 2011, visit www.seniorsleague.org and subscribe to TSCL's free newsletter: The Social Security and Medicare Advisor.
With over 1 million supporters, The Senior Citizens League is one of the nation's largest nonpartisan seniors groups. Located just outside Washington, D.C., its mission is to promote and assist members and supporters, to educate and alert senior citizens about their rights and freedoms as U.S. Citizens, and to protect and defend the benefits senior citizens have earned and paid for. The Senior Citizens League is a proud affiliate of The Retired Enlisted Association. Please visit www.SeniorsLeague.org or call 1-800-333-8725 for more information.
Distributed by The Senior Exchange, Inc.
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