Legislative Update For Week Ending June 1, 2012

Legislative Update For Week Ending June 1, 2012

This week, action on Capitol Hill remained slow as the Senate adjourned for a week-long holiday recess and Representatives in the House focused on various reauthorization bills. However, The Senior Citizens League did see support grow for three important pieces of legislation.

Members of Congress Support Three Key Bills

This week, Rep. Allyson Schwartz’s (PA-13) Medicare Physician Payment Innovation Act (H.R. 5707) gained three new cosponsors, bringing the total up to nine. The new cosponsors are: Reps. John Olver (MA-1), Chaka Fattah (PA-2), and Peter Welch (VT).

If signed into law, the bill would repeal the sustainable growth rate (SGR) formula for physician reimbursements, and it would set up a five-year trial period during which the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services would test and evaluate new payment and delivery models. TSCL strongly believes that the SGR formula breeds uncertainty in the Medicare program for both physicians and beneficiaries. Many doctors have stopped accepting Medicare patients, and many more are threatening to do so if a permanent solution is not established soon. We believe that Rep. Schwartz’s bill would bring increased stability to the Medicare program, and we were pleased to see support grow for it this week.

TSCL also saw support grow for the Part D Beneficiary Appeals Fairness Act (H.R. 3613) this week. One new cosponsor signed on to Rep. Hank Johnson’s (GA-4) bill, bringing the total up to nine. The new cosponsor is Rep. Jerrold Nadler (NY-8).

TSCL is very supportive of the Part D Beneficiary Appeals Fairness Act, which would create an appeals process for Medicare Part D beneficiaries who rely on costly prescription drugs in the specialty tiers. Many drugs used to treat chronic illnesses, and any drug that costs more than $600, are placed on a specialty tier. Medicare beneficiaries are responsible for 25 to 33 percent of the cost of specialty tier drugs – a major expense for those living on fixed incomes. Many seniors are unable to afford the costly drugs and are forced to decide between the treatment and other monthly expenses. Rep. Johnson’s bill would create a critically important appeals process for Medicare Part D beneficiaries, and we hope that support for it continues to build.

Finally, two new cosponsors – Reps. Michael Grimm (NY-13) and Steve Stivers (OH-15) – signed on to Rep. Buck McKeon’s (CA-25) Social Security Fairness Act (H.R. 1332) this week. The cosponsor total is now up to 169.

The Social Security Fairness Act, if signed into law, would amend the Social Security Act by repealing the government pension offset (GPO) and the windfall elimination provision (WEP). These two provisions unfairly reduce the earned Social Security benefits of millions of teachers, firefighters, peace officers, and other state or local government employees each year. TSCL believes that Congress must pass the Social Security Fairness Act in order to give dedicated state and local government employees the retirement security they deserve.