- - Sunday, March 27, 2011

SOCIAL SECURITY

Medicare premiums would offset COLA

Millions of retired and disabled people in the United States had better brace for another year with no increase in Social Security payments.

The government is projecting a slight cost-of-living adjustment for Social Security benefits next year, the first increase since 2009. But for most beneficiaries, rising Medicare premiums threaten to wipe out any increase in payments, leaving them without a raise for a third straight year.

About 45 million people - one in seven in the country - receive both Medicare and Social Security. By law, beneficiaries have their Medicare Part B premiums, which cover doctor visits, deducted from their Social Security payments each month.

When Medicare premiums rise more than Social Security payments, millions of people living on fixed incomes don’t get raises. On the other hand, most don’t get pay cuts, either, because a hold-harmless provision prevents higher Part B premiums from reducing Social Security payments for most people.

David Certner of AARP estimates that as many as three-fourths of beneficiaries will have their entire Social Security increase swallowed by rising Medicare premiums next year.

It’s a tough development for retirees who lost much of their savings when the stock market collapsed, who lost value in their homes when the housing market crashed and who can’t find work because the job market is weak or they are in poor health.

VIRGINIA

Rep. Scott eyes seat of retiring Sen. Webb

RICHMOND | Rep. Robert C. Scott, Virginia Democrat, says he may be ready to move to the Senate after 19 years in Washington.

Virginia’s first - and only - black U.S. House member in the modern era said in an Associated Press telephone interview that he will decide by July whether to seek the seat that Sen. Jim Webb, a fellow Democrat, plans to vacate next year.

Mr. Scott said he’s frustrated with the partisanship in a Republican-controlled House and a Democratic minority that has little say there.

He said the Senate offers more opportunity to address issues such as a deeply unbalanced federal budget that he thinks Republicans would worsen with deep tax cuts for the rich.

Mr. Scott said he hasn’t focused much the Senate vacancy. Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine also is interested in running.

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