Legislative Update: December 2018

Legislative Update: December 2018

New Legislation Contains Changes That Will Reduce Your Costs

By Jessie Gibbons, Legislative Director

Several legislative victories have made 2018 a year to remember for The Senior Citizens League.  Lawmakers made changes to the Medicare program that will improve benefits and reduce costs over time.  Members of Congress took a step in reducing out-of-pocket prescription drug prices.  And, thanks to the voices of concerned advocates like you, these measures passed, while drastic budget proposals that would have cut your Social Security benefits were defeated.

These three legislative victories from 2018 will go a long way in strengthening and protecting your Social Security and Medicare benefits:

  • Congress passed the Bipartisan Budget Act this spring, which improved the Medicare program in three significant ways.  First, it repealed the Independent Payment Advisory Board, which could have threatened access to quality medical care for Medicare beneficiaries.  Second, it eliminated Medicare’s out-patient therapy cap, saving beneficiaries in need of costly speech or physical therapy thousands of dollars per year.  And third, it accelerated the closing of the Medicare Part D “doughnut hole” so that more than one million beneficiaries will pay less for their prescription drugs when they reach the coverage gap in 2019.
  • Congress passed legislation prohibiting “gag clauses” that prevent pharmacists from telling individuals when it would be cheaper to purchase their prescriptions out-of-pocket rather than using their insurance.  A study recently found that consumers would be better off paying cash at the pharmacy 23 percent of the time.  Prohibiting “gag clauses” at pharmacies will immediately result in lower costs for Medicare beneficiaries, and we are pleased that this commonsense legislation was signed into law this year.
  • Several budget proposals were defeated that would have been disastrous for Social Security and Medicare beneficiaries if adopted.  One proposal called for a balanced budget amendment that would have made it unconstitutional for Social Security and Medicare to use their trust fund reserves, leading to inevitable benefit cuts.  The proposal would have allowed Uncle Sam to skip repayment of Social Security payroll taxes that have been borrowed from Social Security and needed to pay the benefits of current retirees.  Another proposal would have “chained” Social Security cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs), eliminated the COLA for some seniors, and increased the eligibility age – three Social Security reforms that older Americans overwhelmingly oppose.  These drastic budget proposals were defeated, thanks to the loud voices of seniors like you, and advocates like The Senior Citizens League.

Despite these legislative victories, The Senior Citizens League is not resting on any laurels as the 115th Congress comes to a close.  Instead, we’re setting ambitious goals for the year ahead.  Come January 3rd – the start of the 116th Congress – we’re advocating for a more adequate Social Security COLA, a boost in monthly Social Security checks to make up for years of inadequate benefits, and lower prescription drug costs for Medicare beneficiaries.  We invite you to help.

What other policy issues should The Senior Citizens League’s prioritize in 2019? You can play an active role in shaping our legislative agenda by participating in our annual Senior Survey, which will be online mid January.  For more information, or to stay updated on the latest from Capitol Hill, visit the Legislative News section of our website or follow The Senior Citizens League on Twitter, and please donate!