Weekly Update for Week Ending October 10, 2020

Weekly Update for Week Ending October 10, 2020

Despite the coronavirus emergency, TSCL is continuing its fight for you to protect your Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid benefits.  We have had to make some adjustments in the way we carry on our work, but we have not, and will not stop our work on your behalf.

Our nation is in a hyper-partisan period as the November elections approach.  In this environment it becomes tricky when reporting about issues that affect you and other TSCL supporters because the issues are so often intertwined with politics.

We want to assure you that we will try to report the facts as we understand them and keep elective politics out of it.

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TSCL Working with Congress for Emergency 2021 COLA Legislation

We expect that the annual COLA (cost of living adjustment) increase for 2021 will be announced next week, or if not then, very soon.  Social Security recipients are likely to get a 1.3 percent COLA making it the second lowest ever paid, according to our own estimates (which several news reporters have learned to rely on).   TSCL’s forecast is based on Consumer Price Index data through August, and only the month of September’s consumer price data remains to come in before we get the official announcement.

Should our forecast prove to be correct, this would make the fifth time since 2010 that there will be an extremely low, or even no, annual inflation adjustment.  

The COLA was zero in 2010, 2011, and 2016.  It was just 0.3% in 2017.   Since 2010, annual COLAs have averaged just 1.4 percent.  That is less than half the 3 percent that COLAs averaged between 1999 and 2009.  This has occurred while other costs experienced by retirees, particularly for healthcare and housing, have grown several times faster than the overall rate of inflation.  But those costs have not been accurately reflected in the COLA.

In addition, the price of food has steadily increased across the board since February, just before the outbreak of the coronavirus in the U.S.

These increases have impacted many foods, including beef and veal, poultry, pork and eggs. Prices of fruits and vegetables also rose, although at a lower rate when compared to other categories.

As so many of TSCL’s supporters know, this situation is causing those with even average Social Security benefits to see little growth in their net Social Security income after deduction of the Part B Medicare premium, which means they are falling backwards in terms of their standard of living.

COLAs have never stayed this low for such an extended period in the history of Social Security.  Over the 20 - year period covering 1990 to 2009, COLAs routinely averaged 3 percent annually, and were even higher before that period.

That is why TSCL is working right now with members of Congress for new legislation that would provide an emergency 3% COLA for Social Security recipients.

An emergency COLA of 3% for 2021 would help older households weather the impacts of the coronavirus and head off another round of Medicare Part B premium increases that outstrip the amount they will receive in their annual inflation adjustment in 2021.

As soon as the new bill is introduced we will alert you and ask you to contact your own Representative and urge immediate passage of the legislation.

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New Economic Stimulus Bill not likely Before Election –

  • Vaccine distribution, safety equipment for health care workers, and reliable testing systems all at risk 

Although talks are continuing between Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D- Calif.), the possibility of passage of any new economic stimulus legislation before the November elections is all but dead.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) sent out a notice to lawmakers and told them no votes are expected in the House this week.  The House is not in session and most Representatives are back home campaigning for re-election, but they remain on 24-hour standby should an agreement on new stimulus legislation be reached.

The talks between Mnuchin and Pelosi took unexpected twists and turns last week when President Trump first called off the talks and then did an about face and said he wanted a bigger stimulus package than either the House Democrats or Senate Republicans were proposing.

It was reported that several Republican Senators told Secretary Mnuchin and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows in a conference phone call on Saturday that any stimulus bill that costs in the neighborhood of $2 trillion is too expensive and would not pass the Senate.

Some Senators said that spending levels being discussed were too high and that ballooning the deficit will damage their standing with voters. Others said that a deal of that size would hand Pelosi and the Democrats a major victory right before the election, according to one report.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who previously warned that some in the GOP won’t back another large stimulus package, has said there probably isn’t enough time to get any deal passed before the election.

McConnell has also said his priority is not another stimulus bill but the confirmation of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court.

New stimulus legislation is important for many reasons, not the least of which is that the off again-on again approach to reaching a consensus on a new legislation creates even more anxiety among state leaders who need financial help to afford essential services like Covid-19 testing and protective equipment for health providers. Disruptions to additional stimulus for states could also wreak havoc with federal efforts to distribute a Covid-19 vaccine when one becomes available because states cannot afford to create that distribution system on their own.

The federal government will provide the vaccine, but states will oversee distributing it throughout the country. States will have to track who gets a vaccine to make sure they get a second dose. They will need to create campaigns to convince vaccine hesitant people to get a shot. Local leaders also must help coordinate where shots will be provided—whether it is through public health facilities or pharmacies like CVS. All that takes money and state revenues have taken a downward turn this year because of the pandemic.

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New Statistics on Coronavirus and Medicare Patients

The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has released new statistics showing that as of Aug. 15 traditional Medicare spent $4.4 billion so far in 2020 to hospitalize more than 178,000 beneficiaries with Covid-19.

More than one million Medicare beneficiaries have contracted the disease that continues to hit hardest among the elderly, minorities, and patients with kidney failure, according to the new data.

While all the data is preliminary and subject to change, it showed many hospitalized Covid-19 patients had similar underlying health conditions.

Eighty percent had high blood pressure, 62% had high levels of fat or lipids in their blood, 52% had chronic kidney disease, 51% had diabetes, and 45% had anemia.

Among hospitalized patients, 31% went home, 32% died, 22% were discharged to nursing homes, 13% received home health services, and 5% went into hospice care.

As we move into what has traditionally been the seasonal flu time of year, we want to remind you that now is the time to get your seasonal flu vaccine.  There is a special senior dose of the vaccine that produces extra antibodies to fight the flu.  However, there are already shortages of it in certain parts of the country so if you want the senior dosage you should not delay any longer.

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U.S. Covid-19 Death Rate Worst in the Developed World

According to the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), one of the most prestigious medical journals in the world, the death rate in the U.S. from the Covid-19 virus is the worst in the developed world.

A report from Bloomberg news on the findings, says, “The proportion of Americans dying from coronavirus infections is the highest in the developed world, according to a study of global mortality rates that shows the U.S. pandemic response left citizens exposed to the lethal disease.

“Early in the outbreak, the U.S. mortality rate from Covid-19 was lower than in many other hard-hit countries, including the U.K., Spain and the Netherlands, according to the report Monday in the Journal of the American Medical Association. But as spring turned to summer, the U.S. largely failed to embrace public-health and policy measures that have helped other countries reduce death rates.”

The article also states that “the U.S. leads the world in total coronavirus deaths, with 214,776 as of Monday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. Brazil ranks second with 150,488 deaths.

“America’s failure to control the outbreak is forecast to be costly. When lost output and health setbacks are taken into account, the economic toll of the pandemic is expected to exceed $16 trillion, or about 90% of U.S. annual gross domestic product, according to a separate report in JAMA on Monday.”

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For progress updates or for more information about these and other bills that would strengthen Social Security and Medicare programs, visit the Bill Tracking section of our website or follow TSCL on Twitter.