Why Isn’t There Any COLA Next Year When Medicare Costs Are Spiking?

Why Isn’t There Any COLA Next Year When Medicare Costs Are Spiking?

(Washington, DC) – Although there won’t be any Social Security cost – of - living adjustment (COLA) next year, many of the nation’s biggest drug and health plans are sharply increasing costs, warns The Senior Citizens League (TSCL). “Outrage is growing among older voters who question how COLAs can be zero, when their healthcare costs are taking the biggest jump in seven years,” says TSCL Chairman, Ed Cates.

According to the non-partisan Kaiser Family Foundation, the average Medicare Part D plan premium increase for 2016 is likely to be the largest since 2009. In addition, Medicare Part B premiums will increase more than 16 percent, from $104.90 to $121.80 per month, for about one in three beneficiaries next year, and that’s after legislation that reduced the increase.

TSCL is receiving a large number of comments about the impact of no COLA from retirees around the country, and recently started posting some of the stories. According to new research for TSCL, there are several important factors affecting why COLAs aren’t accurately reflecting retiree healthcare costs. “First of all, the consumer price index (CPI) used to calculate Social Security and other retiree COLAs doesn’t survey the spending of people age 65 and over,” Cates explains. The Consumer Price Index for Workers (CPI-W) does not include changes in Medicare premiums, according to background information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

But according to TSCL studies, Medicare Part B premiums are one of the single fastest - rising senior costs. Data from TSCL’s annual survey of senior costs indicate that with next year’s Part B increase, premiums will be 168% higher than 2000, rising on average 10.5% per year, even though there was no increase at all over the past two years. Part D premiums have grown roughly 60% since the program started in 2006, averaging about 6% per year.

In addition to overlooking Medicare premiums, the CPI-W also doesn’t accurately measure the portion of income that retirees and disabled Social Security recipients spend on Medicare. Spending for medical care in the CPI for younger adults represents about 6.5 percent of household budgets, but surveys by TSCL suggest that retirees routinely send more than twice that amount.

“If you want to save money on health and prescription drug plans, it’s more important than ever to compare and switch now during the fall Medicare Open Enrollment period which ends December 7th,” Cates says. Free, unbiased, one – on – one counseling is available through State Health Insurance Assistance Programs (SHIP), many of which operate through local agencies on aging.

TSCL believes COLAs need to be more fairly and accurately calculated, and strongly supports recently introduced legislation that would provide an emergency COLA. To learn more, visit www.SeniorsLeague.org.


With 1.2 million supporters, The Senior Citizens League is one of the nation’s largest nonpartisan seniors groups. 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. Visit www.SeniorsLeague.org for more information.