This week was a busy one for Social Security and Medicare Advocates! There was considerable activity to combat the high cost of prescription drugs. The Ways and Means Committee had a hearing on the Social Security 2100 Act. And, work continues on repealing the Windfall Elimination Provision.
Lowering drug prices is a singular area where bipartisan legislation could make it into law this year. On Monday, Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) in introduced legislation that would cut the cost of insulin by 75% compared with the level expected in 2020. The proposal would create a new pricing model that limits the use of rebates for Medicare Part D and the private insurance market, Sens. Tom Carper (D-Del.), Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) have already signed on as co-sponsors to the legislation.
Tuesday Senators Grassley (R-IA) and Wyden (D-OR) announced legislation, The Prescription Drug Pricing and Reduction Act of 2019. The bill if adopted would save taxpayers more than $100 Billion, lower Medicare Beneficiaries out-of-pocket costs by $27 Billion and premiums by $5 Billion, according to the Congressional Budget Office. A hearing on Thursday of a key panel of legislators advanced the legislation out of the Senate Finance Committee despite close-call votes on controversial provisions, priming the legislation to be considered by the full Senate in the fall.
Later in the week, the President doubled down on his promise to try and cut prices on branded prescription drugs. Word is out that the President is considering an executive order to combat the problems of high cost drugs sold to Medicare and other government programs.
On Thursday, the Ways and Means Committee held a long overdue hearing on the Social Security 2100 Act. The bill was introduced by Congressman John Larson (D-CT-1) in January of this year. A companion bill was introduced in the Senator by Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT). If adopted these bills would strengthen and reform Social Security by providing beneficiaries with a 2 percent benefit increase, would base the cost-of-living on the CPI-E, create a new minimum benefit set 125 percent of the poverty line and cut taxes for beneficiaries. Increase costs to the program would be paid for my applying the payroll tax to income over 400,000 and gradually increase the payroll tax rate to 7.4 percent.
Several times in the hearing, repeal of the Windfall Elimination (WEP) was mentioned as a priority issue. The Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) is simply a recalculation of Social Security benefit for individuals who also have a pension from “non-covered” work (no Social Security taxes paid). The normal Social Security calculation formula is substituted with a new calculation that usually results in a lower benefit amount. H.R. 141 and S. 521 would repeal this provision.
The Senior Citizens League was pleased to see support continue to grow for several of its key bills this week, and we thank the new cosponsors for their support. In the months ahead, we will continue to advocate for the passage of the Social Security Fairness Act, the Social Security 2100 Act, the Fair COLA for Seniors Act, and get adoption of legislation that would lower the cost of prescription drugs.
For more progress updates or for more information about these issues, and other bills that would strengthen the Social Security program and make improvements to Medicare, visit the Bill Tracking section of our website or follow TSCL on Twitter.