Cuts to Meals On Wheels Having "Devastating Impact".Barbara has a number of ways she tries to cope. She qualifies for an age reduction waiver on real estate taxes, and energy assistance to help cover the cost of heating her home. To save on her phone bill, she asked her phone company for a discount and got it. She uses shopping points from Kroger where she buys groceries to save money on gasoline..Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid told reporters this week: "Seriously, I feel good about the omnibus, I think we make progress every day. We started with about 250 riders, our new buzzword for earmarks, and now we're down to as I understand it I haven't seen it about 100.".Despite the continued standoff on Capitol Hill, Social Security and Medicare beneficiaries should rest assured that their benefits will not be impacted by the ongoing shutdown. Both Social Security and Medicare are "mandatory" programs, which means that benefits will go out in full and as scheduled regardless of the federal government's operating status. In addition, the administrative offices for both programs are fully funded and are currently operating normally, so those applying for benefits should not see any delays in their requests..Most seniors and their family members feel stymied by trying to figure out which plan would be the best choice. You may also worry that pre-existing health conditions make it difficult to change plans. That's not the case but either way, you will benefit from discussing your situation with a Medicare benefits counselor, not an insurance agent. Free, unbiased counseling is available through your State Health Insurance Assistance Program which operates in almost every area of the country. Local Area Agencies on Aging can refer you to counselors who help you learn about and understand your health plan choices, and to make a switch..There were reports recently that Republicans in the House of Representatives are insisting that stemming the growth of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid costs is necessary. Bloomberg news reported on a House Budget Committee hearing about a new Congressional Budget Office report that projects trillion-dollar deficits for the next decade..Last week reported that major legislation meant to lower prescription drug prices has run into unexpected trouble in the House of Representatives.."Independent analysts think the drug is worth more like ,000, but Medicare has no authority to charge a lower price. Instead, the federal program is likely in effect obligated to cover the new drug now that it has FDA approval. The tools it has to make a determination about whether or not to cover aducanumab and for whom are fraught with legal and ethical risk.".For each of the reasons above, TSCL sincerely hopes that Congress will allow the Social Security payroll tax cut to expire at the end of this year. Extending it for a third time would be irresponsible, and we fear that it could jeopardize the program's ability to fully pay Social Security benefits in the future. To learn more about the tax cut and other issues affecting Social Security, visit our website.

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The federal government remained partially closed this week for the fifth straight week. It remains the longest government shutdown in United States history, and at the time of writing this week's legislative update, only minor progress had been made towards a bipartisan deal to end it..Rural hospitals deserve the same reimbursement rates that big city hospitals receive for providing the same treatments. Patients at rural hospitals deserve the same level of care patients receive at larger hospitals. The Rural Health Care Coalition is simply asking for a level playing field the H-CARE Act does just that..Health, fitness, and wellness programs … Continued

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There are better and more fair choices for indexing the COLA. The BLS also measures the price change experience of All Urban Consumers which covers about 88% of the U.S. population including retirees as well as younger people, and it even maintains a "senior-specific" experimental CPI, the Consumer Price Index for the Elderly, that our government has quietly tinkered with since 1983, but has never used to calculate the COLA..So why the concern if immigrants will be paying into Social Security and Medicare? Won't the payroll taxes boost the program in the meantime.Over the past four years, TSCL's surveys have found that about 9 out of 10 people receiving Social Security benefits report that their household spending rose by at least per month during the prior year. But that's just the tip of the iceberg. "Retirees need to plan for large monthly jumps in spending annually over the course of their retirement," Johnson says. In every year since 2014, the largest percentage of those people participating in TSCL annual Senior Surveys reported that their household spending jumped by more than 9 per month. Since 2014 annual COLAs grew a total of just 3.5 percent, averaging less than 0.9 percent per year. One factor in why retirees have such a gap between their COLA and spending is the consumer price index that the government uses to measure inflation and to determine the annual boost. "One would think that the CPI used to calculate COLAs for retirees would be based on seniors' spending patterns, but it is not," says Johnson. Instead, the COLA is determined by the growth in the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers. Younger working adults spend a far smaller portion of their income on medical costs, which is the fastest growing category of the CPI in most years. On the other hand, younger working adults spend more on transportation and gasoline, categories that have gone down dramatically in recent years. "This tends to understate the inflation experienced by the majority of people receiving Social Security," notes Johnson. … Continued

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