January 16, 2021

January 16, 2021

New Congress Sworn in but Little in the Way of Legislation Yet

The new Congress has been sworn into office but little in the way of legislation regarding Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid has yet been introduced.  As we all are no doubt aware, there have been other things on Congress’ plate the last week or two, to say the least.  But once President Biden is sworn into office this Wednesday Congress will return and the legislative season will be off and running.

As always, TSCL will be working with members of Congress to ensure that the legislation we have been fighting for on behalf of TSCL supporters is introduced and then passed into law.

This includes, among other things, legislation to strengthen the long-term viability of both Social Security and Medicare; lowering the costs of prescription drugs; enacting a fair COLA that takes into account the actual cost of living increases seniors face; Social Security Notch Reform; stopping any cuts to Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid, or to the COLA that may be proposed; enacting legislation to provide for dental, vision and hearing coverage for seniors.

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Senior Drug Discount Cards Promise is Dead

Prior to the election last fall President Trump announced he was going to send millions of senior citizens discount cards to help pay for the cost of prescription drugs.  But he didn’t give any details on how the federal government would implement such a plan, including how the cards, estimated to cost in the billions of dollars, would be paid for.

He said 33 million Medicare beneficiaries would “soon” receive a card in the mail that could be used to help pay for up to $200 in prescription drug costs.  A White House official said at the time that the cards would be mailed out “in the coming weeks” and could be used to pay for the cost of prescription-drug copays.

We reported on the promised cards periodically during the fall even as they encountered one obstacle after another, including an opinion by the top government lawyer in the Department of Health and Human Services that the cards would be in violation of federal election laws because they could be viewed as an attempt by Trump to buy votes using federal taxpayer dollars.

As a result, the cards were delayed until after the election. The last thing we had heard and that we reported on was that the cards were to be mailed out by Jan. 1.  However, last week it was officially announced that the promised cards would not be mailed and that the idea is dead.

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Beware of COVID Vaccine Scams

As outrageous as it is, there are reports of scams involving phony appointments for the COVID vaccine.  People have received emails, phone calls or text messages supposedly from local health departments offering to put them on a vaccine registration list that doesn’t really exist and then charging them for appointments.

We urge you to be cautious.  You should not be charged just for being put on a list.  If you receive a contact like this you should call your doctor’s office or your local health department to try and verify that such a list exists.

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Medicare Needs to be able to Negotiate Prescription Drug Prices

TSCL has been fighting for years for ways to lower prescription drug prices.  One of the ways to do that is to allow Medicare to negotiate the prices of drugs with the drug companies.

Now, a new report confirms how much money that could save.  Medicare Part D spent more than twice as much on hundreds of prescription drugs than the Department of Veterans Affairs in 2017, largely because the agency representing military veterans was able to negotiate prices directly with drug makers according to the report.

Specifically, the VA paid 54% percent less, on average, than the Medicare program for 399 brand-name and generic medicines, even after accounting rebates and other pricing discounts. Of those medicines, VA paid 68% less for 203 generics and 49% less for 196 brand-name drugs.

As part of its efforts to reduce the costs of prescription drugs, Congress must pass legislation allowing Medicare to negotiate with the drug companies the same way the Department of Veterans Affairs does.  TSCL will be working hard this year for legislation to do just that. 

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Once You are Vaccinated Can Life go back to Normal?

The short answer is no – not yet.

Even with the vaccine there is still a 1 in 20 chance of getting the virus.  The vaccine will prevent the symptoms of the virus from occurring.  In other words, it will prevent you from becoming sick, or at least horribly sick.  But you could still carry the virus and pass it on to others who are not yet vaccinated.

In addition, it takes time for the vaccine to take effect after you’ve received it. So, for a time you could still get very ill.

It will be important to continue to wear masks, maintain social distancing, wash our hands frequently, and continue the other precautions we’ve been taking in order to protect those for whom the vaccine might not work.  As time goes on and more people are vaccinated and more who’ve gotten the virus get better, the rates of infection will start to drop.  It’s at that point we can begin to go back to normal.

Also, we should be wearing masks outdoors as well as indoors at this time.  While being indoors with others is far riskier, being outdoors is not risk free if you are with others you don’t live with.

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In spite of the coronavirus emergency, TSCL is continuing its fight for you to protect your Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid benefits.  We’ve had to make some adjustments in the way we carry on our work, but we have not, and will not stop our work on your behalf.

For progress updates or for more information about these and other bills that would strengthen Social Security and Medicare programs, visit the Bill Tracking section of our website or follow TSCL on Twitter.