Social Security COLA increase will boost Tri-Cities economy by $3.6 million a month, but it’s nothing for elders to cheer about

The Tri-Cities economy will get a $3.3 million a month bump when local residents get their first Social Security checks that include the 2018 cost-of-living adjustment (COAL).

The 2% increase is the first substantial increase in years and means the typical check will be about $25 a month higher.

According to the most current Census data, almost half of the households (43.1%) in the seven-county Tri-Cities region receive at least one Social Security check.

According to a Social Security Administration, count by zips codes serviced by the local Security office, close to one-in-three local residents receive Social Security. And that number is increasing as the local population ages.

Here’s another way to look at it. If all the area’s Social Security recipients lived in one city, it would have a larger population than Johnson City, Kingsport, and Bristol, TN combined.

The median Social Security income, that’s the point where half of the checks are larger, and half are smaller, is $18,023 per household. That’s before next year’s 2% increase.

But before anyone starts cheering wait for the Part B shoe to drop.

Current Medicare and Social Security recipients who have been protected by the hold harmless clause and had their Part B (outpatient services) premiums from skyrocketing increases might see an increase in their Part B premium commensurate to the COAL increase.  And even if Part B costs stay the same, many might see premiums rise by about 2%. There’s no word on when that decision will be released.

Even with the 2018 COAL, the fact remains that medical care, housing costs, rental inflation continue to outpace Social Security’s COS most of the time. During past 35 years, medical care inflation has been greater than Social Security’s COLA 33 times.

That simply means retirees are not getting benefits increases that truly keep up with inflation so they have been and continue to get cuts in their benefits.