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SENIORS, SOCIAL SECURITY, AND MEDICARE

Social Security

Each year, the Social Security Administration announces the following year’s Cost-Of-Living Adjustment, or “COLA.” The annual COLA tells beneficiaries how their benefits will change in the coming year. 

The Social Security Administration has announced that seniors’ Social Security benefits will increase 2 percent in 2018, a bump of about $25 per month for the average senior citizen. While next year’s COLA will be an improvement over previous years’, it is still inadequate. Seniors should be able to count on a reasonable COLA and have peace of mind that they’ll be able to make ends meet from year to year.

In response to this news, I have renewed my push to ensure every senior is guaranteed a reasonable cost-of-living increase annually. I have introduced the Guaranteed 3% COLA for Seniors Act, a bill that would change the way COLAs are calculated to more accurately account for the costs seniors face.

COLAs are tied to a measure of inflation called the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W). This index doesn’t adequately measure the types of costs older Americans usually face. Seniors have unique spending habits, usually spending less on travel and gasoline and more on medication and housing than younger cohorts. The Bureau of Labor Statistics tracks an alternative index, the Consumer Price Index for the Elderly (CPI-E), which specifically accounts for seniors’ typical expenses to measure inflation. Using the CPI-E would allow the government to more accurately base COLAs on the true living costs that seniors face. What’s more, the CPI-E regularly determines a greater cost-of-living increase than the CPI-W.

My Guaranteed 3% COLA for Seniors Act would require the use of the CPI-E when calculating annual COLAs for Social Security recipients. My bill would also ensure seniors get a minimum 3% COLA every year, even if the CPI-E COLA falls below this amount.

Nearly 60 million Americans receive Social Security benefits, including more than 120,000 in our district. Please be assured that I will continue fighting to ensure that each of these Americans receives the annual COLA they deserve, and to keep Social Security working for all seniors. 

Medicare

President Johnson signed Medicare into law under the principles that access to health care is a right, not a privilege, and no one should be forced into poverty because of health care costs. As your Member of Congress, I have always fought vigorously to protect and strengthen Medicare. In order to keep Medicare strong, we need to reduce cost growth within the health system, while protecting and expanding essential benefits and protections. The Affordable Care Act has slowed the rate of health care spending significantly, but Congress needs to do more to implement reforms that reward the quality, rather than quantity, of medical care in America.

Even today, we face members of the House Majority who want to end Medicare as we know it. Their plan turns Medicare into a privatized voucher program. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office found that if a voucher plan similar to the Republican leadership proposal was implemented, the average Part B premium charged in 2020 for the traditional Medicare option would be 50% higher than under current law.  

For 50 years, Medicare has been a true American success story. We made a promise to our seniors five decades ago to never forget them or the value of their lives, and we have done a remarkable job in keeping that promise. Let's continue to maintain our unwavering commitment to our seniors by strengthening and improving Medicare.