Social Security’s cost-of-living increase largest in four decades, estimate says

More than 70 million Americans who receive Social Security benefits can expect an inflation adjustment to their monthly checks next year that will be the largest in four decades.

Government inflation figures for August, released Tuesday, point to a Social Security cost-of-living adjustment, known as the COLA, of 8.7%, according to an estimate by a nonpartisan group that lobbies for seniors. The Social Security Administration will announce the final figure Oct. 13, after the release of September inflation data.

The 8.7% estimate by the group, the Senior Citizens League, is lower than the league’s prediction last month of 9.6%. The revision reflects the recent slight cooling of inflation to 8.3%. But if the league’s projection holds up, the COLA still would be the largest since 1981, when the inflation adjustment was 11.2%.

Rising Medicare premiums often take a significant bite out of COLAs. The premium for Part B (which covers outpatient services, such as doctors’ visits) typically is deducted from Social Security benefits. Large increases in Part B can sharply reduce, or even eliminate, a COLA. But next year, most experts expect the standard Part B premium to rise very modestly, or even stay flat at the current $170.10 per month.

“Seniors are so accustomed to the Part B premium consuming so much of the COLA — I think they’re in for a pleasant surprise this year,” said Mary Johnson, a policy analyst for the league.

The 2023 COLA will give a significant boost to more than 70 million Americans — a group that includes 52.3 million people older than 65, along with a broader group that includes survivors of beneficiaries and people receiving disability benefits and Supplemental Security Income, the program for very low-income people.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

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