2009-05-06 / Seniors

No S.S. COLA Forecast For 2010, 2011; Addabbo Announces Rx Discount

Message to the 50 million seniors who receive an annual cost of living adjustment (COLA) in their Social Security benefits each year: don't expect any hike next year (2010) or the year after (2011). The COLA is based on any increase in the cost of living that might have occurred this year and is added to next year's benefits.

There will not be a COLA because the cost of living has not increased due to the economy being in decline, going back to last year. No inflation means no COLA.

There is a bit of a bright side to the whole situation: if there is no cost of living increase in Social Security benefits, there cannot be an increase in premiums for most Medicare Part B coverage because, under federal law, Part B premiums cannot rise more than the COLA for Social Security.

This law does not apply to about onequarter of Social Security beneficiaries, so for these seniors there might be a sharp increase in premiums. The premium for this year is $96.40.

The forecasts of no S.S./COLA next year and the year after were made by the Obama Administration and the Congressional Budget Office and were reported in the New York Times.

If the reports turn out to be accurate, this will be the first time there will not be a COLA since it was created in 1975 to allow Social Security benefits to keep pace with inflation. Ironically, when the COLA for this year kicked in on January 1, the increase was 5.8 percent, one of the highest in the 35 years it has been in existence. The COLA was instituted to preserve seniors' purchasing power.

ADDABBO ANNOUNCES RX SAVINGS CARD: Freshman state Senator Joseph Addabbo Jr. (D- Ozone Park) has announced the availability of a free discount card that can reduce the price of prescription drugs for New York state residents aged 50 to 64 or persons with a disability regardless of age who do not presently have prescription drug coverage.

Those on Medicaid do not qualify for the free discount card, Addabbo pointed out. He said the free pharmacy discount card can lower the cost of prescription drugs by as much as 60 percent for generic drugs and 30 percent for brand name drugs.

The lawmaker, who held a City Council seat in the Ozone Park/Howard Beach area before being elected to the state senate last November, explained that the program is sponsored by New York state with the support of a statewide network of more than 3,700 pharmacies that are providing the discounts. Pharmaceutical manufacturers are being encouraged to join in and provide additional discounts, Addabbo said.

Applicants can apply online at http://nyprescriptionsaver.fhsc.com and download a New York Prescription Saver application from the Web site, or can call a toll free Helpline at 1-900-788-6917. Participating pharmacies and the discounted prices for drugs can also be found on the Web site, Addabbo said.

"With the downturn in the economy, many individuals are finding it more difficult than ever to access their necessary prescription drugs," Addabbo stated. "I encourage anyone who may be eligible and is currently doing without their prescriptions to utilize this important program."

OBAMA'S HEALTH CARE REFORM ADVANCES: Congress approved a $3.55 trillion budget for 2009- 2010 last week that follows President Barack Obama's blueprint for many programs he outlined during his victorious campaign last year. Included is his plan for universal health care and overhaul of the nation's healthcare system. House approval came by a 233- 193 vote.

In the Senate, the vote was 53- 43 and includes authorization for a parliamentary procedure known as reconciliation that prevents minority Republicans from blocking healthcare legislation later this year.

The Obama healthcare plan calls for inclusion of about 15 million persons in the U.S. who do not have healthcare coverage presently as well as proposals to reduce the costs of the Medicare program.

The huge budget approved by Congress also fully funds veterans' benefits and programs.

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