Columnist: No COLA for America’s seniors this holiday season |

Columnist: No COLA for America’s seniors this holiday season

Randy Fricke
Staff Photo |

While Wall Street and corporate health insurance CEOs are spending their giant nontaxable bonuses during the holidays, American senior citizens are being denied their small annual COLA (cost of living adjustment) for 2016.

This decision made by the Social Security Administration in late October will affect 65 million senior citizens in America. The monthly checks distributed to senior citizens around this country averaged around $1,328 a month from the 1.7 percent cost-of-living raise for 2015. This averages out to be $15,936 for the year.

The annual COLA increase per individual has averaged around $20 a month in recent years. This is the third time in recent years that a COLA was not granted. This decision comes “at a time when more than half of households 55 and older have zero retirement savings, and when two-thirds of retirees depend on Social Security for the majority of their income,” according to Michael Phelan on the Social Security Works website.

Recently, the Medicare trustees announced that Medicare beneficiaries could see 50 percent increase in their deductibles in 2016, plus millions more could see a 50 percent increase in their monthly premiums for Part B of the Medicare plans.

Then there are millions of senior citizens in this country who are getting hit pretty hard with expensive Medicare supplementary insurance premiums. This is the insurance that covers what Medicare does not cover in medical expenses.

AARP, Blue Anthem, Aetna and the rest of these health insurance companies jack up their supplemental premiums each year on senior citizens without giving any real justification for these increases. My two aunts who are in their late 80s and early 90s pay way too much for their supplemental insurance. If they have any other out-of-pocket expenses for medical treatment, their budgets just get crushed.

The corporate health insurance companies and their CEOs did a great job of designing our health care system. They designed it so they make can make huge profits at our expense and have perpetual wealth.

After hearing the disturbing news in October about the denial of COLA, I immediately e-mailed and phoned members of our Colorado congressional delegation asking them to reverse this decision. Rep. Scott Tipton, our 3rd District representative from Durango, emailed me a cordial reply showing his concern about COLA and the welfare for senior citizens. However, he offered no action to change the COLA decision. In addition, his staff person was highly disinterested in helping me.

Sen. Michael Bennet’s email to me was another cordial reply showing his concern senior citizens as well, but offered no action on his part.

I got the best response from Rep. Diana DeGette, a Democrat from the Denver area. When I phoned her office in Washington, her staff was eager to help and shared my concern and frustration. They offered to do whatever they could to help.

I even phoned and e-mailed President Obama asking him to reverse the COLA decision. His office sent me a very nice, lengthy email citing his concern for the welfare of senior citizens in America. He mentioned all of his efforts to rid Medicare of fraud and waste, but he offered no action to reverse the COLA decision.

Thank goodness for Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Democrat from Massachusetts. In early November, she introduced the “Seniors and Veterans Emergency Benefits Act.” This bill would grant beneficiaries a one-time payment of $581 to make up for the lost COLA increase.

Funding for this bill would be derived from the closing of the tax loophole that allows million-dollar bonuses on Wall Street to go untaxed. A major news source indicated that Republicans in the Senate would vote the bill down.

Our Sen. Bennet was not among the many Democratic senators who co-sponsored this bill. Sen. Bernie Sanders, Vermont, one of the Democratic Party’s leading presidential candidates, is a co-sponsor of this bill.

I find quite often that when I call members of Congress at their offices in Washington, D.C., they easily forget that they work for us. Today, more than ever, we have to fight our own government for what belongs to us. If you are a senior citizen like me, you should be fighting mad about the way we are treated in this country. Right now, I am thinking about sending Congress and Obama lumps of coal for their Christmas stockings.

Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah, America.

Randy Fricke of New Castle is an environmental advocate and political activist. Author of the book: “IF I WERE PRESIDENT/Saving Main Street America.“

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