Podcast twofer: 2020 Medicare premiums and housing inequality among older adults

Podcast twofer: 2020 Medicare premiums and housing inequality among older adults

This week, the podcast focuses on some trends in housing that have some disturbing implications for older adults. But I also wanted to update listeners on the final numbers for next year on the Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA).

So, the podcast is a bit of a twofer this week.

Medicare premiums and Social Security

The Social Security COLA was announced in October - but the real COLA isn’t apparent until Medicare announces premiums for the year ahead. That’s because Part B premiums are deducted from Social Security checks. Medicare released those figures late in the day last Friday - probably hoping no one was paying attention heading into the weekend, because the numbers are not pretty. The standard premium for Medicare Part B (outpatient services) will jump 6.7% to $144.60 next year, and the  annual deductible will jump by a similar amount. 

The earlier-announced Social Security COLA is 1.6% - but the net COLA will be much smaller for most beneficiaries. For example, if your Social Security benefit is $1,500, your COLA will be just under 1% - an increase of 14.90 rather than $24. Learn more about this in my column this week for Reuters Money.

Housing inequality has hit unprecedented levels

My guest on the podcast this week is Jennifer Molinsky. She’s a  senior research associate at the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University (JCHS), and a lecturer at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design. At JCHS she works on housing policy and planning issues including homeownership, housing for older adults, and land use regulation. 

Jennifer is co-author of a new report that sheds light on how inequality is impacting older Americans, with a particular focus on housing.

The report finds slipping rates of home ownership, especially among racial minority groups. It also found a growing share of older households are carrying mortgages and other types of debt into retirement.

And here’s the finding I found most disturbing: the number of cost-burdened households aged 65 and over grew by more than 200,000 to a new high of nearly 10 million. The Harvard researchers define “cost-burdened” as paying more than 30% of income for housing. And out of this group, about 5 million of these households were severely burdened, paying over half their incomes for housing.

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