Thursday, 07 March 2013
Crabby Old Lady: The High Cost of Being Old
As you know by now, the chained CPI, about which Crabby Old Lady addressed President Barack Obama yesterday, uses a different calculation that would reduce future Social Security cost-of-living (COLA) increases.
Except for the fact that some extremely rich men including at least one billionaire, believe old people have too much money, Crabby cannot understand how the president or anyone else thinks old people are rolling in dough. To bore you with one of the same old numbers again, the average Social Security benefit is $1230 per month.
The fact is, our expenses go up every year, even those when there is no cost-of-living increase, and are always larger than the COLA.
This year, Social Security recipients were given a 1.7 percent COLA. As pitifully small as the monthly increase is, Crabby lost half of it immediately due to the $5.00 increase in the deduction for Medicare Part B coupled with, in Crabby's personal case, an increase in her Medigap premium.
Certainly she is not alone in this event nor in the other shocking increases in her monthly expenses at the start of 2013.
The cable bill shot up by $30 a month. This is television and most important, internet. There is no competitor. Crabby made more than a dozen – count them, more than 12 - telephone calls over three weeks or so to her provider, Comcast, to discuss changes that would be less expensive.
She always got a recording asking for name, number and time of day. She always provided the requested information. And she has never received a callback.
Crabby's homeowners association dues went up too, by $16 a month. And because Crabby has apparently been talking a lot more than in the past, she increased her number of minutes to avoid 25-cent per minute overage charges that nearly killed her two months in a row. So now it costs an additional $12.
No doubt you have your own versions of these calculations.
Medical costs cannot be ignored – elders spent more on that than younger people. A Kaiser Family Foundation report quoted in The New York Times last fall
”...found that people with Medicare spent 16 percent of their income on out-of-pocket medical expenses in 2006 (an average $4,241 per Medicare member), up from 12 percent in 1997.”Note that is 16 percent for out-of-pocket expenses which does not include premiums.
Has anyone noticed grocery prices lately? The least expensive jar of honey (tiny) a couple of week ago was more than $5 and Crabby saw a one-pound bunch of asparagus for $7.
So just on expenses Crabby can ennumerate, rather than estimate, the increases surpassed her 2013 COLA by 53 percent. Crabby knows several readers with similar or worse outcomes this year.
Now that the “sequester” is in force, the political chattering classes have moved on to the potential government shutdown on 27 March. The House passed legislation yesterday to avert it and for once, a debacle for the country may not go down to the wire.
But it has opened up discussion of the the budget among the punditry.
Crabby Old Lady pays attention to what the media, especially those based in Washington, D.C., say because Washington is a closed society – government, the media, lobbyists and the corporate CEOs who are buddies with these folks listen only to one another.
In the past week, those pundits have jacked up their number of references to “entitlements” and what they mostly have to say are variations on these two observations: “When is Congress going to get serious about cutting entitlements?” and “Everyone knows the only thing that will save the economy is to cut entitlements.”
Left or right on the political spectrum, pundits believe this stuff as though it has been handed down on tablets from Sinai. In one instance early this week, Crabby heard from a pundit show host that elders get Medicare for free. This is a common belief in the media and throughout non-elder America.
For the record, all workers pay into Medicare their entire working lives. Part A of Medicare is free. Part B costs, currently, $104.90 per month. Then there are Medigap (supplemental) premiums and Part D, prescription drug premiums which can range from a few dollars to hundreds of dollars. And, too, there are co-pays for medical services.
And, unlike the Veterans Administration, Medicare does not cover most hearing, dental and eye procedures. Elders bear the entire cost for those.
For Crabby, Medicare premiums take up 14 percent of her income. She's lucky – that's cheap compared to many elders.
The handful of Washington people who actually understand how the Social Security and Medicare work are not pundits. They are four or five legislators who occasionally appear on pundit shows of the political left variety - Senator Bernie Sanders and Representative Alan Grayson among them.
But because they appear infrequently and irregularly and are stuck with the usual three-minute segment that makes everyone at the desk or on the panel sound a lot like a Twitter conversation, no real information about Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid passes out to viewers.
So in the tank for cutting entitlements is the general pundity that most of America will assume, as the public discussion accelerates, that cuts to social programs are necessary which, of course, you and Crabby know is nowhere near true.
So, it's not enough that elders' costs increase every year over and above whatever pittance of a Social Security COLA is granted. Everyone who has a Washington soapbox and therefore power to influence outcomes is hellbent on making it worse – that is, as awful as possible for elders.
Crabby Old Lady cannot come up with a single useful thing to do to stop any of this from happening. She is furious at the ignorance and stupidity of the punditry and frightened for all elders.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Lyn Burnstine: Women's Clubs