Seniors tighten their belts
According to the trustees who oversee Social Security, seniors will not receive a cost-of-living adjustment on benefits next year. Due to an increase in Medicare prescription drug program premiums, which are often deducted from benefits checks, area seniors could actually see a decrease in their Social Security benefits next year.
"It's not going to be easy," said Naomi Marbut, of Cassville. "If they did not raise everything else it wouldn't be so bad, but everything else will go up."
Compounding the issue further is the recent slide in the stock market, which has impacted many seniors' investments.
"A lot of us have investments that are not secure now," said Vivian Kinsel, of Cassville. "We will just have to start cutting things out. If we can't afford it, we will do without it."
Even though the absence of a cost-of-living adjustment will force them to make tough financial decisions, most local seniors agree that they are fortunate to have experience dealing with economic troubles.
"We have been through bad times before, so we know what to do," said Marbut. "We have learned how to do without."
As they weather the economic storm, area seniors are keeping a close eye on the recent debates on healthcare. Although many seniors would like to see an improvement in the healthcare system, they are not sure if lawmakers are currently on the right track.
"I have mixed feelings about the whole thing," said Kinsel. "I don't know what to expect. We can't afford to pay any extra for our insurance."
Area seniors would like to see more information on the issue and how it could potentially impact their current health insurance coverage, said Ruby Miller, of Cassville.
"We don't know what to believe and what not to believe right now," said Miller, "but I believe it is to premature to worry about."
Kinsel agrees that seniors will just have to wait and see how they are impacted.
"Why should we worry?" asked Kinsel. "We just have to let the good Lord take care of it."
As area seniors wait for the outcome of the healthcare debate, they are taking fiscally responsible measures to lower their living costs, said Shawna Sutphin, Cassville Senior Center assistant administrator.
"One woman who comes here told me that she read in the Joplin paper that propane was at an all-time low right now, so she called to fill up her tank," said Sutphin. "She made the comment to me that she is not getting a raise in Social Security benefits this year, so she had to do something to make up the difference."
Sutphin said that she expects to see an increase in the number of seniors who visit the center for meals or request meals be delivered to their homes. This could put more pressure on a program that was in danger of losing over $2 million in state funding this year. Although the program received $1.92 million in stimulus funding, those monies will only fund the program through 2010.
"At that point our funding will be up in the air again," said Sutphin. "We also always have a struggle finding drivers. I can see us continuing to struggle with that if we have more people requesting meals."
Social Security cost-of-living adjustments are directly related to the Consumer Price Index (CPI). Due to the fact that the CPI did not increase this year, Social Security benefits will not receive a cost of living adjustment for 2010.
Next year, will be the first year that there has not been an increase in benefits since the automatic cost-of-living adjustment increases were adopted in 1975.