Legislative Update for Week Ending September 15, 2017

Legislative Update for Week Ending September 15, 2017

This week, lawmakers in the Senate continued working on plans to reform the healthcare system. In addition, The Senior Citizens League saw five key bills gain new cosponsors in the House.

Healthcare Debate Continues in Senate

On Tuesday, the Senate Finance Committee held a hearing to delve into the topic of rising healthcare costs. Echoing the hopes of his colleagues on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (UT) said in his opening statement, “I want to find a bipartisan path forward.”

The Finance Committee members spent much of Tuesday’s hearing debating the primary motivators of rising healthcare costs, especially growing premiums in the individual market. Many on the committee seemed convinced that the ACA is to blame, while others said the Trump Administration is responsible.

The expert witnesses at the hearing focused their suggestions on improving the marketplace. Edmud Hailsmaier – Senior Research Fellow at The Heritage Foundation – said policymakers should change how they see the individual market. He said it should be thought of as two distinct pools which include (1) individuals wishing to be protected against the financial liability of large health expenses, and (2) those who are very sick and have no other insurance options.

In addition, Avik Roy – Co-Founder and President of the Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity – suggested that lawmakers focus on increased transparency in the pharmaceutical industry. He said if action is not taken reduce prescription drug prices, “the poor, vulnerable, and elderly have the most to lose.”

TSCL agrees that lawmakers must take action soon to stabilize the individual health insurance market and to bring down skyrocketing prescription drug prices. In the coming months, our legislative team will continue to monitor and support legislation like the Improving Access to Affordable Prescription Drugs Act (S. 771, H.R. 1776), which would reduce costs and improve care for older Americans. For updates on this bill and others like it, visit the Bill Tracking section of our website or follow TSCL on Twitter.

Five Key Bills Gain Support

This week, four new cosponsors signed on to Congressman John Garamendi’s (CA-3) bipartisan Consumer Price Index for Elderly Consumers (CPI-E) Act (H.R. 1251), which would base the Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) on a more fair and adequate inflation index if adopted. The new cosponsors are Congressmen Marc Veasey (TX-33), Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan (MP), Vincente Gonzalez (TX-15), and Andre Carson (IN-7). The cosponsor total for H.R. 1251 is now up to forty-three.

Another bill that would improve the COLA – the Guaranteed 3 Percent COLA Act (H.R. 991) – also gained support this week. Congressman Gene Green (TX-29) signed on to it, bringing the cosponsor total up to five. If adopted, H.R. 991 from Congressman Eliot Engel (NY-16) would base the COLA on the CPI-E and guarantee a minimum annual Social Security benefit increase of at least 3 percent.

In addition, two new cosponsors – Congressmen Jim Langevin (RI-2) and Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan (MP) – signed on to the Protecting and Preserving Social Security Act (H.R. 3302), which was recently introduced by Congressman Ted Deutch (FL-22). If adopted, his bill would base the COLA on the CPI-E and cover the cost by removing the Social Security payroll tax cap for high earners. H.R. 3302 now has nine cosponsors in the House.

Another Social Security reform bill – the Social Security for Future Generations Act (H.R. 2855) from Congressman Al Lawson, Jr. (FL-5) – gained one new cosponsor this week. The new cosponsor, Congressman Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan (MP-1), is the nineteenth lawmaker to officially sign on to the bill. If adopted, it would strengthen and improve the program by adopting the CPI-E, applying the payroll tax to income over $250,000, creating a new benefit for widows and widowers, and increasing the Special Minimum Benefit so it equals 125 percent of the poverty line.

Finally, one new cosponsor – Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal (WA-7) – signed on to Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky’s (IL-9) Improving Access to Affordable Prescription Drugs Act (H.R. 1776). The cosponsor total is now up to seventeen in the House. If adopted, it would take several steps to reduce prescription drug costs. It would require the federal government to negotiate lower prices for Medicare beneficiaries, allow individuals to import prescriptions from Canada, accelerate the closing of the Part D “doughnut hole,” and cap monthly out-of-pocket drug expenses at $250, among other things.

TSCL enthusiastically supports the five bills listed above and we were pleased to see support grow for them on Capitol Hill this week. For more information, visit the Bill Tracking section of our website. To thank your representative for becoming a cosponsor or to request their support for legislation, visit our “Contact Congress” page.

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