If you currently draw Social Security benefits, you'll notice a 5.9 percent increase in your monthly check beginning in 2022. It's the most substantial COLA (Cost Of Living Adjustment) for older Americans in thirty years. At the same time, if your health insurance is original Medicare, the standard monthly premium for Medicare Part B increases from $148.50 to $170.10, in addition to an increase in the Part B annual deductible from $203 to $233.
This is a good example of one of the major dilemmas of growing old in America, especially for those who are on a fixed income. As the government giveth, the government taketh away. For many of us, the bump in Social Security will quickly be eaten up by inflationary prices along with the rise in Medicare costs.
Perhaps more to the point, the push-and-pull relationship of Social Security and Medicare is symbolic of the under-appreciation of America's elders. Max Richtman, president and CEO of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, expressed it very well in his recent opinion piece for The Hill entitled "It Shouldn't be This Hard to Grow Old in America." He wrote:
"The idea of growing old in America today is becoming more uncertain and even scary, and it shouldn't be. This is one of the wealthiest nations on earth. While many seniors are fortunate to have adequate retirement income, affordable health care, and the means to live independently after decades of working, millions of others do not. ...
The two bedrock social insurance programs of the 20th century - Social Security and Medicare - have not been sufficiently updated to reflect seniors' 21st century needs (though serious efforts finally are underway in Congress to do so). ...
Expanding Medicare and Social Security and allowing prescription price negotiation have overwhelming support from majorities of Americans across party lines. We should not have to fight to enact commonsense improvements for our most vulnerable citizens. ...
Aging in America should never be an intimidating prospect for anyone. Whatever it takes - a shift in societal attitudes, a political re-alignment, or the swelling senior population exercising its own power and voting in its own interests - we must rise to a higher standard for elder care."
The above are excerpts from Richtman's well-reasoned argument in a publication whose readership is largely national politicians and federal government officials. While one can only hope it doesn't fall on deaf ears, it's important to note that the "Build Back Better" legislation, which includes significant benefits for seniors, is currently stalled in Congress.
America is aging, and the segment of the population over age 55 is growing more rapidly than any other. The wealthiest minority of 55-plus Americans continue to get richer and secure their own retirement, but the majority of older Americans have less than adequate retirement savings and struggle financially when they retire. In fact, many in the 55-plus age group will need to continue to work well into their 70s if they want to experience any sort of comfortable retirement.
At some point, legislators -- and all members of American society -- must recognize that the precarious nature of many older Americans' lives will catch up with us. Growing old in America should not be "more uncertain and even scary" for anyone.