Legislative Update: February/March 2016

Legislative Update: February/March 2016

TSCL’s Three Legislative Wins For Disabled And Older Americans  

By Jessie Gibbons, Senior Policy Analyst

Last year was a busy and successful one for The Senior Citizens League (TSCL). Three major legislative efforts that had our support were effectively tackled by lawmakers in Congress and signed into law by President Obama.

First, in the spring, Members of Congress passed legislation to repeal and replace the sustainable growth rate (SGR) – a flawed formula that set payment rates for doctors who treated Medicare patients. Because of the quirks in the law, doctors were faced with double-digit cuts year after year. Some stopped seeing new Medicare patients, and some even stopped participating in Medicare altogether. TSCL advocated for the SGR’s repeal for more than a decade, and we were ecstatic to see it replaced once and for all last April. The law took effect immediately and, in the coming years, it will bring increased stability to the Medicare program for both patients and their doctors.

Second, in October, Congress passed legislation to strengthen Social Security’s Disability Insurance (DI) program. Many of the recommendations that TSCL made to the House Ways and Means Committee back in August were signed into law, including provisions that will ramp up fraud prevention and test new work incentives for beneficiaries. Most importantly, the law prevents a 20 percent benefit cut that was scheduled to hit 11 million disabled beneficiaries in December 2016. A cut of that size would have been truly devastating for enrollees, and TSCL applauds Members of Congress for averting it.

Third, TSCL was pleased that Congress passed legislation last fall to stave off a 52 percent hike in Medicare Part B premiums for around 15 million beneficiaries. Back in October, our legislative team hand delivered letters to every office on Capitol Hill urging lawmakers to prevent the abrupt and dramatic premium increase. We were pleased when legislation was signed into law later that month to provide relief for the millions of Medicare beneficiaries who would have otherwise seen massive cost increases in January.

These success stories would not have been possible without the support from tens of thousands of advocates like you who are banding together with TSCL to protect Social Security and Medicare. Once again, TSCL’s legislative team has big goals this year. Since the Social Security Administration (SSA) announced seniors would not receive a benefit increase in 2016, we have been advocating tirelessly for an emergency cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for Social Security beneficiaries. Two bills that are now before Congress – the Seniors Deserve a Raise Act (H.R. 3761) and the SAVE Benefits Act (S. 2251, H.R. 4012) – would provide benefit increases of 2.9 percent and 3.9 percent, respectively. In the months ahead we will continue to encourage lawmakers to sign these bills into law because retired and disabled Americans need relief this year.

In addition, we will be urging lawmakers to adopt legislation that would result in more fair and accurate COLAs in the future. Several bills before Congress would accomplish this, including the CPI-E Act (H.R. 3351), the Guaranteed 3% COLA Act (H.R. 3588), the Social Security 2100 Act (S. 1904, H.R. 1391), and the Social Security Expansion Act (S. 731). TSCL believes each of these bills would go a long way in ensuring the retirement security seniors have earned and deserve.

To stay updated on TSCL’s legislative efforts and their progress in Congress, visit the Legislative News section of our website. You can also find us on Facebook or Twitter for more frequent legislative updates.