WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The Social Security Administration told nearly 65 million retirees on Monday they will not be getting a raise next year, because inflation is too low to trigger one.
And the bad news gets worse. Unless Congress acts, many of the more than 55 million on Medicare could see premiums rise as much as 50 percent-- and higher deductibles, as well.
The increase in out-of-pocket Medicare payments would effect doctor visits, surgery, medical tests and supplies such as walkers or wheel chairs. Currently, the monthly premium is $104. It could rise to $159. And 8 million could face these higher costs, about a mullion are federal retirees.
"Fifty-five dollars a month makes a big, big difference to individuals living on a fixed income," said Jessica Klement of the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association.
Here's the problem: health care costs are rising fast. By law, 70 percent of people on Medicare are protected from higher premiums if they don't get a social security cost of living raise. That's what's happening next year, which will leave only 30 percent of Medicare patients to absorb all the higher health care costs. That 30 percent includes the wealthy, seniors who recently signed up for Medicare this year, and federal employees.
Congress can reverse the cost increase due to start Jan. 1, something the White House supports.
"There does seem to be bipartisan support in Congress for preventing this. How you do that, if you have to offset those costs, however, could complicate this issue," said Klement.
Preventing the higher premiums is now part of secret budgets talks between the White House and Congressional Republicans. That means, seniors could be caught in the middle of an upcoming flight to avoid a government shutdown and increase defense spending.