Legislative Update for Week Ending October 6, 2017
For this week, lawmakers in the House and Senate turned their attention towards the 2018 fiscal budget. In addition, one House committee advanced legislation that would repeal Medicare’s Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), and The Senior Citizens League saw one key bill gain support.
Fiscal 2018 Budget Advances in House and Senate
This week, lawmakers in the House and Senate advanced their fiscal 2018 budget resolutions. Those in the House held a floor vote on Thursday, and lawmakers passed it along party lines with a vote of 219 – 206. Meanwhile, the Senate Budget Committee held a two-day markup of its plan and advanced it on Thursday with a vote of 12-11. Their budget resolution is expected to be on the Senate floor in two weeks for a final vote.
Once both chambers approve their fiscal 2018 budget resolutions, a bicameral group of lawmakers will reconcile the dramatic differences between the two. For example, the House version calls for the creation of Social Security reform legislation that would be fast-tracked through Congress to return the program to 75-year solvency. In addition, the House proposal calls for nearly $500 billion in cuts to the Medicare program by increasing the age of eligibility from sixty-five to sixty-seven, and by transforming it into a “premium support” program, where beneficiaries would be given vouchers from the federal government to purchase private health insurance.
TSCL opposes these provisions of the House budget resolution, and we will be monitoring the reconciliation discussions closely to ensure they are not included in the final fiscal 2018 package. According to one Republican Senator – Bob Corker (TN) – contentious proposals like those on Social Security and Medicare reform will not be included in the final budget resolution. He told reporters this week: “Every budget that’s put out by either side of the aisle is a total joke. It’s not worth the paper it’s written on. This is a vehicle to begin debate about tax reform, and there’s a whole lot that I want to say about that.”
In the weeks ahead, lawmakers will use the budget process to move forward on comprehensive tax reform. Reconciliation instructions included in the budget resolution will allow the Senate to advance an estimated $1.5 trillion in tax cuts with a filibuster-proof simple majority. As the budget advances in the coming days and the tax reform discussions evolve, TSCL will be post updates here in the Legislative News section of our website. For more information on the policies TSCL will advocate for during the upcoming tax reform debates, click HERE.
IPAB Repeal Advances in House
On Wednesday, the House Ways and Means Committee met to markup bipartisan legislation called the Protecting Seniors’ Access to Medicare Act (H.R. 849). If signed into law, it would repeal the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), a provision of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that calls for the creation of a board of fifteen unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats. When Medicare spending exceeds a certain level – a level that has not yet been reached – the IPAB will be tasked with creating a plan to reduce program spending. Although the IPAB is prohibited from cutting the benefits of Medicare enrollees, TSCL fears that it could do just that.
In his opening statement, Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (TX-8) said: “Fifteen bureaucrats could slash payments to thousands of providers, forcing them to stop seeing Medicare patients … Fifteen bureaucrats could decide where millions of seniors can and cannot receive the care they need.” He stated that although “putting Medicare on sustainable financial footing is a top priority for this committee,” the IPAB is not the mechanism to accomplish this goal.
TSCL agrees that Medicare recipients deserve access to the services they need and we are pleased that the Ways and Means Committee advanced the Protecting Seniors’ Access to Medicare Act on Wednesday. We are encouraged to see strong bipartisan support for the bill, and we hope to see it signed into law before the end of this year. For updates, follow TSCL on Facebook or Twitter.
Key Bill Gains Support
TSCL is pleased to announce that Congressman Salud Carbajal (CA-24) has signed on as a cosponsor to the Consumer Price Index for Elderly Consumers (CPI-E) Act (H.R. 1251), bringing the total up to forty-four. If adopted, the bipartisan CPI-E Act would ensure that the cost of living adjustment (COLA) for Social Security benefits would be tied to the CPI-E, a more accurate inflation measure that considers the special costs seniors face. In the months ahead, we look forward to working with the bill’s sponsor – Rep. John Garamendi (CA-3) – to build additional support for it and to help sign it into law. For more information about the CPI-E Act, visit the Bill Tracking section of our website.