Saturday, November 13, 2021

The Ups And Downs Of Senior Life

Nobody in the media seems to care that Social Security benefits went up nearly 6% for COLA increases to help with costs in 2021. That's $90 a month on average, but I guarantee you everyone's going to go berserk over Medicare Part B going up one third of that.

The federal government announced a large hike in Medicare premiums Friday night, blaming the pandemic but also what it called uncertainty over how much it may have to be forced to pay for a pricey and controversial new Alzheimer's drug. 
The 14.5% increase in Part B premiums will take monthly payments for those in the lowest income bracket from $148.50 a month this year to $170.10 in 2022. Medicare Part B covers physician services, outpatient hospital services, certain home health services, medical equipment, and certain other medical and health services not covered by Medicare Part A, including medications given in doctors' offices. 
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services played down the spike, pointing out that most beneficiaries also collect Social Security benefits and will see a cost-of-living adjustment of 5.9% in their 2022 monthly payments, the agency said in a statement. That's the largest bump in 30 years. 
"This significant COLA increase will more than cover the increase in the Medicare Part B monthly premium," CMS said. "Most people with Medicare will see a significant net increase in Social Security benefits. For example, a retired worker who currently receives $1,565 per month from Social Security can expect to receive a net increase of $70.40 more per month after the Medicare Part B premium is deducted." 
The increase, however, is far more than the Medicare trustees estimated in their annual report, which was released in late August. They predicted the monthly premium for 2022 would be $158.50. 
But thanks to Republicans in Congress continuing to block the Biden Build Back Better program, which would lower prescription drug costs, and Big Pharma rattling off massive price increases in drugs in the last few years under Trump, the bad guy here is...the Democrats!
The actual spike -- the largest since 2016 -- could hurt some seniors financially. 
It "will consume the entire annual cost of living adjustment (COLA) of Social Security recipients with the very lowest benefits, of about $365 per month," said Mary Johnson, a Social Security and Medicare policy analyst for The Senior Citizens League, an advocacy group. "Social Security recipients with higher benefits should be able to cover the $21.60 per month increase, but they may not wind up with as much left over as they were counting on." 
Medicare premiums have typically increased at a far faster rate than Social Security's annual adjustments, the league said. And much of the 2022 increase in Social Security benefits will be eaten up by inflation, which is also rising at a rapid clip. 
CMS said part of the increase for 2022 was because of uncertainty over how much the agency will end up paying to treat beneficiaries to be treated with Aduhelm, an Alzheimer's drug approved by the US Food and Drug Administration in June over the objections of its advisers. Some experts estimate it will cost $56,000 a year. Medicare is deciding whether to pay for it now on a case-by-case basis. 
Call me nuts, but maybe the problem with Medicare costs is stuff like "Alzheimer's drugs costing $56,000 per year" rather than "inflation of a global economy coming out of mothballs to 2019 demand levels".

The Big Lie, Con't

The more I think about Fulton County, Georgia DA Fani Willis considering going through with a grand jury to investigate Trump's election interference in 2020, the more worried I get for the safety of the people involved.

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis is likely to impanel a special grand jury to support her probe of former President Donald Trump, a move that could aid prosecutors in what’s expected to be a complicated and drawn-out investigative process.

A person with direct knowledge of the discussions confirmed the development to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, saying the move could be imminent.

Some legal observers viewed the news, first reported by the New York Times, as a sign that the probe is entering a new phase.

“My interpretation is that she’s gotten as far as she can interviewing witnesses and dealing with people who are cooperating by producing documents voluntarily,” former Gwinnett County DA Danny Porter said of Willis. “She needs the muscle. She needs the subpoena power.”

Special grand juries are rarely used but could be a valuable tool for Willis as she takes the unprecedented step of investigating the conduct of a former president while he was in office.

Her probe, launched in February, is centered on the Jan. 2 phone call Trump placed to Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, in which he urged the Republican to “find” the votes to reverse Joe Biden’s win in Georgia last November. The veteran prosecutor previously told Gov. Brian Kemp, Raffensperger and other state officials that her office would be probing potential violations of Georgia law prohibiting criminal solicitation to commit election fraud, intentional interference with the performance of election duties, conspiracy and racketeering, among others.

The investigation could also include Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani, who promoted lies about election fraud in a state legislative hearing; and U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who was accused by Raffensperger of urging him to toss mail-in ballots in certain counties. Both men have denied wrongdoing.

The main benefits a special grand jury would provide are continuity and focus, former prosecutors said.

A regular Fulton County grand jury is seated for two months. Jurors typically hear hundreds of felony cases before their service ends.

But a special grand jury, which typically has 16 to 23 members, is focused on a single case and remains active for as long as prosecutors need. That could be beneficial given how complicated the issue of investigating a former president is.

Prosecutors will be able to save time not having to send out new jury summons or present the case from scratch every two months to get new jurors up to speed, according to veteran prosecutors.

“In complex matters it helps to not have to reacclimate a new set of grand jurors,” said Gwendolyn Keyes Fleming, previously a DeKalb County DA. She co-authored a Brookings Institution report earlier this fall that analyzed all available public evidence and concluded that Trump’s conduct leaves him at “substantial risk of possible state charges predicated on multiple crimes.”

Like a regular grand jury, special grand juries can subpoena witnesses, compel the production of documents, inspect and enter into certain offices for the purposes of the investigation. But they can’t issue indictments. In order to secure one, prosecutors would need to present evidence to a regularly impaneled grand jury.

The DA’s office, a superior court chief judge or local elected official can request a special grand jury. The request must be approved by a majority of the county’s superior court judges.

Melissa Redmon, a former Fulton County deputy DA, noted the backlog some 11,000 criminal cases that Fulton’s two other grand juries are currently working their way through.

“Especially when you think about the backlog created by COVID… the main advantage of having a special grand jury is that they could be focused on just this investigation,” said Redmon, an assistant clinical professor at the University of Georgia’s law school.

Should the case move ahead, many legal observers are expecting Trump to fight every request made by prosecutors, which could drag out the investigative process for months.

What's unsaid here is the notion that Willis will be allowed to continue this probe into Trump without interference from Gov. Deal and the state GOP, that mob-style corruption, silencing, or even violence isn't somehow expected here.

Trump is going to be calling up Republicans in the state and demanding that his case go away. We know this because he's done it before. There are certainly state Republicans who are going to throw around the idea of removing Willis from office for "misconduct".

There are also those who will want to remove Willis from this Earth. January 6th proved Trump can ignite those riots when he wants.

What I'm saying is, as a Black man, I do not trust the assumption that Willis is in any way safe here.

Neither should anyone.
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