After two years without any cost-of-living adjustment (COLA), Social Security recipients will receive a sorely-needed 3.6% boost in 2012. Seniors are reporting that during the past two years of living without a COLA, they were forced to make some difficult choices according to stories received by The Senior Citizens League (TSCL), one of the nation's largest nonpartisan seniors groups.
In a recent TSCL survey on healthcare costs, TSCL received more than 760 responses from seniors and the disabled nationwide, most of whom said they were not managing costs very well. The following are just two examples: William G., a disabled person living in Virginia, said, “I sure miss the COLA but if I do get a COLA the government is going to raise my Part B bill. It will probably wipe out my COLA. I have to make payments on my co-pays for visits and procedures. I have been threatened that my bills will be turned over to collection agencies. I can’t pay my other bills and pay for supplement insurance. I had good insurance when I was working!”
Antonia. S., a senior who lives in Washington, said “I have to give up many other things. I have not bought a single item of clothing in 2 years. I only eat meat a couple times a week. I buy many items of food from the marked down racks and fewer fresh vegetables & fruits. I have to sometimes cut back on the doses of some of my medications because I don't have enough money at the end of the month for refills. All of this is difficult because of having several medical problems. I have stage 4 kidney failure because undiagnosed severe gout went untreated and damaged my kidneys, and I have marginally - treated glaucoma and retinitis pigmentosa. I haven't gotten new glasses for 2 years because even though Medicare will buy me a new pair, I would have to pay $90 for the glare coating that I need because of my eye conditions. Mainly to manage my healthcare costs I have to DO WITHOUT some of my medical care!”
An ongoing study of senior costs by TSCL has found that seniors’ Social Security benefits have lost 32 percent of buying power since 2000. Typical seniors costs, which include a higher portion of income spent on healthcare, have increased at a far faster pace than costs for non-seniors. The result is that healthcare costs are taking a rapidly growing share of Social Security payments.
Nevertheless, COLAs and Medicare benefits continue to be eyed for cutting federal spending. TSCL lobbies to protect seniors from proposals that would cut COLAs or make current beneficiaries pay even more for their Medicare costs. “Clearly, it’s very important that lawmakers and the White House get a better understanding of the types of choices that seniors and the disabled are making to pay for their healthcare,” says TSCL Chairman, Larry Hyland. To learn more about major proposals that would affect Social Security and Medicare benefits as well as money-saving tips for living in retirement, subscribe to TSCL’s The Social Security & Medicare Advisor newsletter.