Social Security checks may freeze along with prices

The good news is that prices have stayed stable or even declined over the past year. The bad news is that Social Security checks won’t rise come Jan. 1 for the first time in a generation.
Maybe they won’t rise again next year, Social Security officials say.
At the same time, the cost of prescription drug insurance may rise a bit, so the millions who have policy premiums deducted from their Social Security pension checks will see the checks shrink rather than swell.
So how should the nation’s millions of Medicare and Social Security clients feel about these things?
First, they (we) should be glad that Social Security payments went up 5.8 percent at the beginning of this year; that most also received a check for $250 as part of the fiscal stimulus package and that the increase for the average Medicare prescription drug insurance premium will be only $2 a month, $24 a year, which will make a very small dent in the monthly check.
Second, those who are concerned about the federal deficit should applaud the decision to follow the rule book: When there is no inflation, there is no justification for higher Social Security checks.
Third, they should write their Congress person and urge them to be certain that Medicare administrators get the right to bargain with the pharmaceutical industry to get lower drug prices, a right that the Veterans Administration and many state Medicaid programs already have; a right that was specifically denied Medicare administrators when the program was put into being under the previous administration.
Lower drug prices could mean that premiums for Medicare prescription drug insurance need not rise.
Congress could also require the prescription drug industry to sell drugs as cheaply in this country to any purchaser as they do in any other country, which really doesn’t seem too much to ask.

— Emerson Lynn, jr.