Seniors should be prioritized

An Associated Press article last week indicated policymakers’ opinion that the 5.9 percent cost-of-living adjustment that millions of retirees on Social Security will be receiving next year is a safeguard to protect Social Security benefits against the loss of purchasing power, not a pay bump for retirees.

While those policymakers are correct in a basic sense, the increase in reality isn’t a safeguard at all.

It will not come close to enabling retirees to meet the growing financial challenges that they will face during the coming year.

For many retirees, heating costs this winter and rising costs of other utilities over the course of the coming year will eat up most or all of the Social Security increase they will receive during the 12 months of 2022.

Beyond that, there will be the ever-increasing medical-related costs for which they will be responsible, including payments for medicines.

For retirees, the inflation guidelines used each year by the federal government to determine COLAs do not come close to addressing comprehensively the challenges retirees face. Often-heard references to elderly people’s decisions about whether to buy food or medicines are real, not a fabrication, for many retired households.

Over the past year, as the federal government was putting into effect generous financial help for a big segment of the American population — help that actually resulted in many people refusing to work — no doubt many retirees were mulling over the question, “Where is the concern for us? We have not had a meaningful cost-of-living increase for more than 10 years.”

Judging from the way America’s elderly were forgotten — or intentionally ignored — during the height of the pandemic, when a continuous flow of money to others began, some retirees, until Thursday, probably were anticipating little or no COLA for 2022 either.

Thankfully, those individuals’ expectations were exceeded. However, the Social Security Administration needs to shed light on one nagging piece of possibly unfinished business. That is whether Social Security recipients will have to “give back” some of their 5.9 percent COLA hike via an increase in the standard premium for Part B medical coverage.

News reports out of Washington on Thursday were unclear regarding the Part B standard premium obligation. Online, at least one source was saying the 2022 premium would be $158.50, up from $148.50 this year.

Meanwhile, the 2022 “Medicare & You,” the official U.S. Government Medicare handbook, which was sent to Social Security recipients weeks ago, contains the message “the 2022 Part B premium amount wasn’t available at the time of printing. To get the most up-to-date cost information, visit Medicare.gov later this fall.”

A check of that website on Thursday did not resolve the question conclusively.

Responding to the COLA news, AARP CEO Jo Ann Jenkins described the coming increase “crucial for Social Security beneficiaries and their families as they try to keep up with rising costs” – as if the increase will be a godsend when, all considered, it really is not.

Social Security recipients should welcome the news of the increase — that is true — but it will not take very long to realize that 2022 will be another year of financial struggle, despite whatever additional Social Security money they receive.

Yes, definitely, not a pay bump, and the 2022 COLA is not a true safeguard either.


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