Bring it to Barb


Dear Barb,

Does my income level affect my monthly cost for premiums to pay for Medicare Part B? My income has changed and I am worried since my income will increase substantially. It takes hours on hold to call the Social Security Administration office. 


Computer Challenged

Dear Computer Challenged,

Medicare Part B is like a standard health-insurance and carries a premium. The base rate in 2020 is $144.60 per month. This is automatically deducted from your Social Security check. 

To set your Medicare premium for 2020, Social Security will rely on the tax return you filed in 2019 that details your 2018 earnings. If your Adjusted Gross Income was less than or equal to $87,000 for an individual or $174,000 for a married couple filing jointly, you pay the standard Medicare Part B rate for 2020. If your income was higher, you pay up to a maximum of $491.60 a month.

You can ask Social Security to adjust your premium if a “life-changing event” caused significant income reduction or financial disruption in the intervening tax year. An example would be if your marital status changed, or you lost a job, pension or income-producing property.

Let’s challenge your computer skills a little. You can use a computer and type in the search bar at the top: This site has information to help you rather than be on hold on your phone to ask questions. On your own computer or a secured computer, you can create your own “mysocial security” account from this site. It will help you set up a password and then you can change your address or manage benefits online, but don’t forget your password, as it will be the only way to return to your account. It will lock you out for 24 hours if you guess wrong. Be brave and take the challenge! 

Dear Barb,

It infuriates me when I see someone pull out their SNAP state aid card and I see in their shopping cart a prepared pie from the bakery, a piece of meat I couldn’t ever afford and incidental luxury food items. Our government is paying for them out of my tax dollars I pay to the government. Do some just take advantage of the program? What are your thought on my attitude? How can I be more tolerant and less judgmental about their situation?


No Excuse for Misuse 

Dear No Excuse,

You are not alone with this notion that there is some mishandling of agift(SNAP) from our government to those in need. Likely there is a motivational blunder too!

Yes, a bag of flour and sugar and some blackberries can make three pies, plus leftover flour and sugar for months at the same price as one blackberry pie from the bakery! We all admit it is cheaper, but it takes more effortand timeto bake a pie! 

Imagine that you had a million dollars and you wanted to help several dozen people with food. You took applications to qualify them for your million-dollar fund and you carefully choose individuals to help get back on their feet. You gave them a stipend every month for food. One day, you find out by accident that one of your chosen people (Susie), whom you really liked, had acquired a large inheritance from a relative months prior. You were never informed about the inheritance by Susie, yet she continued to accept money for food. How would you feel? You would probably feel like you could be using that gifted fund money for another individual who really needed the help. Those chosen people needed to do nothing for this money for food except work on getting their life back on track. Even so, some can’t resist free money even when they no longer really need it. You could understand how your resentful feelings about mishandling could be justified. 

There are truly those who need assistance; have made mistakes and are making an effort to change their situation by actions and a plan. But sustaining a problem endlessly without effort or a concrete plan toward fixing itis the easy way and it issinful. It’s gluttony and sloth, and most agree both are sin.

If “sloth” means “reluctance to work or make an effort, lazy” and “gluttony” means “habitual greed or excess in eating,” these behaviors, gluttony and sloth, are easy to choose as humans and will prevent the SNAP program from going away anytime soon. Many SNAP recipients feel deprived and believe they’re entitled to this help as compensation for their hardship, so to speak. Their only requirement to qualify for SNAP is to be under the threshold of income considered poverty. You literally do nothing to receive this but be poor. The temptation of gluttony and sloth and taking the easy way is our strong human nature justifying it to us. SNAP was intended as a “temporary hand up” not a “hand out” for life.

However, accepting otherstakes practice. Tolerance and less judgment of others is attained by adopting one motto: It is not our job to police others, it’s our job to police ourselves.

Barb Rock is a mental health counselor and the published author of “Run Your Own Race: Happiness after 50.” Send any questions related to mental health, relationships or life issues to her at

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