As a result of inflation, people on fixed incomes watch their incomes decline in value over time. Fortunately, Social Security’s benefits are adjusted every year automatically to offset increases in inflation. Its modest, but vital, benefits do not erode over time. In 2020, Social Security benefits will rise 1.6 percent. This adjustment is not an increase in benefits. It simply allows people to tread water, to help people maintain their purchasing power.
Unfortunately, the government’s cost of living adjustment for Social Security is based on inflation experienced by workers and not by retirees and people with disabilities who are unable to work. Older people and people with disabilities have, on average, higher health care costs; those costs tend to rise considerably faster than overall inflation. For that and other reasons, people receiving Social Security generally experience higher cost of living increases than workers, and Social Security adjustments are inappropriately low. Even with the adjustments, Social Security benefits have less value from one year to the next. Nevertheless, inadequate adjustments are better than none.
In 2020, people on Social Security will receive an average cost of living adjustment or COLA of $24 a month or $288 a year. Some of this increase, about $8.80 a month, will go to covering the increase in their standard Medicare Part B premium. The 2020 standard Part B premium is projected to increase from $135.50 to around $144.30 a month.
Social Security benefits, which are modest, but vital, should be increased, as US Representative John Larson, Senator Elizabeth Warren and Senator Bernie Sanders have all proposed. And, Congress should enact a better, more accurate measure of inflation for people receiving Social Security benefits. After a lifetime of work, Americans should have enough guaranteed Social Security income to maintain their standards of living.
Congress also should improve Medicare by expanding it to cover such vital services as hearing aids, dental work, and vision care. Premiums, copays, and deductibles should be eliminated. And everyone should be covered. Medicare for All will improve the nation’s health outcomes, while costing far less than what we spend today.
It is long past time to enact a more accurate cost of living adjustment for Social Security, expand its benefits, improve Medicare, and extend it to everyone. That is profoundly wise policy. It also represents the views of the vast majority of us.
If you want Congress to expand Social Security, please sign this petition.
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