Legislative Update for Week Ending February 10, 2017

Legislative Update for Week Ending February 10, 2017

This week, lawmakers in the Senate voted to confirm the nomination of Congressman Tom Price (GA-6), who was selected by the Trump administration to become the next Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). In addition, The Senior Citizens League (TSCL) announced its support for three new bills.

Senate Confirms HHS Nominee

Early Friday morning – with a vote along party lines of 52-47 – lawmakers in the Senate confirmed the nomination of Congressman Tom Price (GA-6). Price will lead the HHS Department as it navigates the repeal of the Affordable Care Act and the potential privatization of the Medicare program.

Price, an orthopedic surgeon from Georgia, was first elected to Congress in 2004 and served as the Chairman of the House Budget Committee in the 114th Congress. In recent years, he has authored several plans to reform the Medicare program by increasing the eligibility age and adopting a premium support model, where beneficiaries would be given vouchers by the federal government to purchase private insurance. On the Senate floor this week, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (NY) said Price has “dedicated his life to destroying Medicare as we know it.”

TSCL has serious concerns about the Medicare reform proposals put forth by Price since data shows they would result in increased out-of-pocket costs for Medicare beneficiaries. In the coming weeks and months, we will keep a close eye on the work of HHS Secretary Price, and we will continue to advocate against plans that would cut health benefits for older Americans or result in higher costs. For updates, follow TSCL on Facebook or Twitter.

TSCL Endorses Three New Bills

This week, TSCL announced its support for three new bills: the Notch Fairness Act (H.R. 867), the Social Security Fraud Prevention Act (H.R. 624), and the Preserve Access to Affordable Generics Act (S. 124).

The Notch Fairness Act – introduced by Congresswoman Grace Meng (NY-6) – would provide a modest settlement payment to those affected by the Social Security Notch. Notch victims – those born between 1917 and 1926 – receive lower Social Security checks each month than those born before and after them with similar work histories due to amendments made to the benefit formula back in 1977. Just years before they were set to retire, Notch victims learned they would have significantly lower benefits than originally anticipated. The problem has grown and compounded over time, and TSCL believes that in order to correct a wrong done to Notch victims and to make the program more equitable, compensation for the injustice should be provided.

TSCL also announced its support for the Social Security Fraud Prevention Act – introduced by Congressman David Valadao (CA-21) – this week. If enacted, it would remove Social Security numbers from government-issued documents distributed by mail. Identity theft is a significant and growing problem, and older Americans are disproportionately affected since they rely heavily on paper mail carried by postal delivery services. Greater protection is essential for seniors living on fixed incomes, and TSCL feels that the Social Security Fraud Prevention Act is a common-sense step in the right direction.

Finally, TSCL announced its support this week for the Preserve Access to Affordable Generics Act, which was introduced by Senator Amy Klobuchar (MN). If enacted, the bill would prohibit brand name drug companies from paying generic drug companies to delay the introduction of their products to the market. Such deals are entirely legal in the current system, and the anti-competitive practice results in higher costs for the Medicare program and for beneficiaries. Prohibiting pay-for-delay deals would undoubtedly bring generic drugs to the market more quickly, and TSCL hopes Congress acts soon to address the issue.

TSCL enthusiastically supports the Notch Fairness Act (H.R. 867), the Social Security Fraud Prevention Act (H.R. 624), and the Preserve Access to Affordable Generics Act (S. 124), and we look forward to working with Congress in the months ahead to build support for them. For progress updates or additional details on these and other bills, click HERE.

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