THE COST-of-living adjustment (COLA) for Social Security for 2021 is 1.3%. With an almost $4 increase in the cost of Medicare and an $18 rise in supplemental health insurance premium, I am entering January 1, 2021 with a negative $7 from my COLA, which is supposed to help retired seniors; never mind the increases in the other expenses of living like groceries or gasoline

The increase in Medicare is technically not supposed to be greater than the increase in the COLA. Nothing at all is calculated in to cover the increased cost of supplemental health insurance, which sensible seniors need because Medicare only covers the first 80% of care. If a senior is not retired from a federal position or poor enough to qualify for Medicaid, he or she needs to pay for the other 20% of coverage or else gamble that they will not need care.

How does our government expect seniors to keep pace with an increase that has us sliding backward as we enter the new calendar year? Those of us who pay our own way are spending too much money for necessities. Dentists, eyeglasses and hearing aids are not part of most of our health insurance coverage. Either we struggle to pay for “these luxuries” out of pocket or go without care.

This year I was fortunate to have three part-time jobs from August to the November election. More than the gross pay of two of those positions went to my dentist. He wants to do more expensive work and I wonder how I justify that expense as my savings are needed to supplement Social Security each month. I have subsidized housing as I cannot afford the rental rates here in New Hampshire.

A friend of mine is hanging onto her home but she does not have a car, which is needed living in the country. Another friend keeps working, but for how much longer? Another friend has just a few teeth left. Chatting with casual acquaintances has me facing a beautiful smile with gaps where teeth should be.

These are the same stories for many; a tale of you, your parents, grandparents or great-grandparents. I have friends and see other seniors with many missing teeth and those who struggle trying to read with old prescriptions, using store-bought reading glasses or holding written work at a distance, getting by without really seeing.

A friend asked what I did with the $1,200 stimulus check we each received. I had thought it would be great having fun money (new lamp, new chair), but new eyeglass lenses and automobile/rental insurance ate that check. The same friend asked me what I would do with the upcoming $600 check; the dentist has already eaten that check. Another story of sliding downhill.

Seniors work and save what they can but inadequate pay does not allow them to save enough to be the big stool leg supporting the lesser coffer of Social Security. Retirements are essentially gone for many in the workforce because Social Security doesn’t provide enough to meet our financial needs. When I worked this summer and autumn, I realized how hard it is to toil hours and hours each week just to earn enough to pay for health care, much less have money left over for fun.

It sounds like a good deal when the increase for COLA is announced. But people are not looking at all the costs surrounding a senior’s life and what the increase does not mean. Seniors are living longer — though without the energy level they had during their working years — and many require multiple prescriptions. Working long past retirement age is the hardship society puts on seniors who do not have enough of a nest egg.

Shall we insist seniors work unto death or go without proper dental, eye care and/or hearing aids, falling into disrepair, because those are luxury items not meant for the common man or woman?

The COLA is just one ugly aspect of the mechanisms of care needing reform and clamoring for society’s attention and that of our politicians.

Kath R. Allen is retired and living in Peterborough.

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