Legislative Update: August 2013

Legislative Update: August 2013

With So Much At Stake It's Time to Challenge Elected Lawmakers!

By Jessie Gibbons, Legislative Assistant

By the end of this year, lawmakers could enact legislation that would trim Social Security benefits, threaten access to care for Medicare beneficiaries, and make millions of immigrants eligible for benefits based on illegal work. With so much currently at stake, it is more important than ever for seniors to learn about – and possibly challenge – the positions of their elected officials.

The month of August presents constituents with the perfect opportunity to do just that. Both the House and the Senate adjourn for the month, and many Members of Congress travel home to hold town hall meetings. The Senior Citizens League (TSCL) encourages you to make the most of this month by attending town halls and making your voice heard. Below are summaries of three key issues, along with sample questions. Feel free to take them with you to your next meeting.


Cutting the annual cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) by switching to a more slowly rising measure of inflation – the "chained" Consumer Price Index (CPI) – is currently one of the most popular deficit reduction proposals on the table. Backed by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle – including President Obama – proponents are calling it a small "technical correction."  But "chaining" the COLA would compound over the course of a retirement and, after ten years, it would amount to an $88 per month benefit cut for the average retired married couple – an amount that most seniors simply cannot afford to lose.

Town Hall Question: Research indicates that seniors have already lost more than 30 percent of their purchasing power since 2000. What is your position on the adoption of the "chained" CPI for the calculation of Social Security COLAs?

The "Doc Fix"

Each year, due to a faulty formula that's used to determine Medicare's reimbursement rates, doctors are threatened with sizable pay cuts. This year, if Congress fails to act, doctors will face a 25 percent cut. Lawmakers consistently override scheduled pay cuts with temporary "fixes," but many doctors have grown tired of the ritual and have stopped treating Medicare patients. The estimated cost of repealing the formula has recently dropped dramatically, and many are hoping to replace it in the coming months. Doing so would provide much-needed stability for Medicare beneficiaries.

Town Hall Question: Many doctors are threatening to stop seeing Medicare patients if the sustainable growth rate formula is not repealed and replaced. What do you feel should be done about this?

Immigration Reform

Comprehensive immigration reform has been topping the legislative agenda in Congress for months, but so far most policy wonks and lawmakers have kept quiet about the ways in which reform would affect Social Security. Millions would become eligible to collect Social Security benefits based on work done illegally, under invalid or fraudulent Social Security numbers. TSCL is concerned about the ethical implications of this, and we believe that it would put additional strains on the Social Security and Medicare Trust Funds.

Town Hall Question: Comprehensive immigration reform would make millions eligible for Social Security benefits based on work done without legal authorization. What is your position on the current policy that allows entitlement based on work done under invalid Social Security numbers, and would you consider supporting legislation that would close this loophole?

To learn more about issues facing Social Security and Medicare, visit our weekly legislative updates, which provide information on upcoming town hall meetings.