The Feds just announced the increase for Social Security benefits for next year. The increase is 0.3%. So in 2017 the average beneficiary will see an extra $4 in their monthly benefit.
Of course even that measly $4 -- and more -- will likely be taken away from recipients to pay for Medicare. So far as I know, Medicare has not announced any increase for next year. But wait . . .
I can't say that this post is primarily designed to be informative; it's simply meant to further the discussion.
The typical reaction I've seen around the Internet reads something like this: I worked all my life and paid Social Security taxes for almost 40 years, and now Social Security gives us virtually no increase to help us pay our bills. They say the reason is because there's no inflation, mostly because the price of gas has gone down. Well, that's great for truck drivers and uber drivers. But what about the seniors who actually rely on Social Security? Food prices are going up, medical costs keep climbing, and pretty much everything else (except for gasoline which we don't even use much anymore since we don't commute) is more expensive than last year. What are we supposed to do?!?
Well, to revive an old Clintonism, I feel their pain. I just paid the latest installment of the tax bill on my condo. I noticed it went up $100 from last year. That doesn't seem too bad. Except it comes to 3.5% -- or more than ten times the rate of the Social Security increase. My sewer tax went up from $300 to $330 for the year. That's a 10% jump!
Honestly, I do not follow my own budget that carefully, so I can't really portray myself as a good judge of how much "real" inflation is, compared to the official figures. I do remember the 1970s, when prices seemed to increase every month. Inflation these days is nothing like that. And yet, we're planning a trip to South Carolina in a few weeks. The hotel prices seem huge! And prices on airbnb and homeaway don't look much better. Predictions for the death of inflation may be premature.
My medical insurance has not increased. And when I moved to Connecticut from New York, the bill for Medicare advantage actually went down by a few dollars. That's good news!
But then I went to the doctor yesterday for my annual physical. It seems that, instead of raising prices, Medicare may be stealthily cutting services. I used to get an annual physical, complete with blood tests and an electrocardiogram. But now, I'm told, Medicare will only pay for a Wellness visit. The Wellness visit does not include a blood test for cholesterol, triglycerides or other factors -- unless you already have a history of heart disease. In other words -- in a switch from the previous situation -- Medicare will pay for a pre-existing condition; but it will not pay to diagnose a new condition.
That seems kind of backwards, doesn't it? Fortunately, I don't have a lot of medical issues, so it's not a big problem for me. But the doctor did prescribe one drug. I'm going to pick it up at the pharmacy later today. I'm holding my breath, wondering how much it's going to empty my pocket.