With inflation at extremely low levels, seniors should start taking a closer look at their budgets for next year, warns The Senior Citizens League (TSCL),
one of the nation’s largest nonpartisan seniors groups. According to consumer price index data through August 2012, TSCL is forecasting that the annual cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) will be one of the lowest ever to be paid, about 1.4%. This comes after two years of no COLA at all in 2010 and 2011, and a 3.6% COLA this year.
The government will announce the 2013 COLA on October 16th. Average monthly Social Security benefits are hovering at $1,130, and a 1.4% COLA would boost payments by about $15.80. “That would leave most seniors digging deeper to keep up with rising Medicare and other costs,” says TSCL Chairman, Larry Hyland.
Earlier this year the Medicare Trustees forecast that the base Part B premium, which is deducted from most beneficiaries’ Social Security payments, would climb about $9.20 a month, from $99.90 to $109.10.[i]
If that estimate proves correct, seniors whose benefits are less than $660 per month (prior to the Part B deduction) would be the group most likely to see the Part B premium increase completely offset the dollar amount of their COLA.
“To manage rising costs, seniors and disabled Social Security recipients who receive Medicare should carefully check health and drug plan notices for changes in 2013,” says Hyland. “If a current plan doesn’t cover one or more of the drugs currently used, or boosts co-pays, that’s all the more reason to review options,” he notes.
“No senior who depends on Social Security can afford to be complacent about Medicare cost increases,” Hyland says. Medicare costs currently take about one-third of the average Social Security benefit and that portion is rising.[ii]
Case studies indicate that seniors who compare options annually, and switch plans based on the prescriptions they currently take, stand to save hundreds of dollars annually on average.
Medicare’s fall open enrollment period starts October 15th and ends December 7th. “Medicare enrollees should watch the mail for letters from their current drug or Medicare Advantage plan outlining changes for 2013,” Hyland says. “Be particularly careful to check changes in deductibles, co-pay amounts, and other coverage. Just checking for premium increases won’t tell you the full story,” Hyland adds.
Seniors can get complete customized comparisons based on the drugs they currently take by using the Medicare Drug and Health Plan Finder database at www.Medicare.gov
. There’s a video how-to that can help seniors learn to use the tool. Free one-on-one impartial counseling to assist with plan comparison is also available through State Health Insurance Assistance Programs (SHIP), which operates through many Area Agencies on Aging.
With over 1 million supporters, The Senior Citizens League is one of the nation's largest nonpartisan seniors groups. Located just outside Washington, D.C., 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. Please visit www.SeniorsLeague.org or call 1-800-333-8725 for more information.