Legislative Update For Week Ending June 8, 2012

Legislative Update For Week Ending June 8, 2012

This week, action on Capitol Hill was slow as both Houses of Congress focused on spending and reauthorization bills for Homeland Security, the Department of Agriculture, and the Food and Drug Administration. However, The Senior Citizens League did see support grow for four key bills.

Key Bills Gain Six New Cosponsors

This week, several Members of Congress signed on to four key bills. First, Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (MO-5) signed on to Rep. Charles Gonzalez’s Consumer Price Index for Elderly Consumers (CPI-E) Act (H.R. 456). The cosponsor total is now up to thirty-five.

The CPI-E Act, if signed into law, would base the calculation of Social Security cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) on the consumer price index for elderly consumers. Currently, COLAs are based on the CPI-W, which tracks the spending patterns of urban wage earners. In a press release, Rep. Gonzalez recently wrote: “Seniors typically spend their money in vastly different ways, thus the CPI-W does not adequately reflect seniors’ changes in cost from year to year.” TSCL strongly agrees that seniors would be better served if their COLAs were based on the CPI-E, and we were pleased to see support grow for Rep. Gonzalez’s bill this week.

Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (MO-5) also signed on to Rep. Mike McIntyre’s Notch Fairness Act (H.R. 1001) this week, bringing the cosponsor total up to thirty-seven. If signed into law, the Notch Fairness Act would provide modest compensation to Notch babies, or those who receive lower Social Security benefits because they were born between the years 1917 and 1926. TSCL feels that this inequity was brought about because of the Social Security Amendments that were enacted in 1977, and we believe that some compensation for the injustice should be provided. The Notch Fairness Act would do just that, providing either a $5,000 lump-sum payment or an increased monthly benefit calculation to Notch babies.

The Medicare Physician Payment Innovation Act (H.R. 5707), introduced by Rep. Allyson Schwartz (PA-13), also grew in support this week. Reps. Robert Brady (PA-1), James McGovern (MA-3), and John Carney (DE) signed on as cosponsors, bringing the total up to twelve.

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. Rep. Schwartz recently stated: “For far too long we have failed America’s seniors and created a long-term fiscal nightmare for Medicare by maintaining the status quo of the broken Medicare physician payment system.” TSCL strongly agrees that now is the time to permanently fix the reimbursement system, and we were pleased to see three new cosponsors announce their support for the bipartisan bill this week.

Finally, one new cosponsor – Sen. Daniel Inouye (HI) – signed on to Sen. John Kerry’s (MA) Social Security Fairness Act (S. 2010) this week. The total is now up to seventeen.

If signed into law, the Social Security Fairness Act would amend the Social Security Act by repealing the government pension offset (GPO) and the windfall elimination provision (WEP). TSCL believes that these two provisions unfairly reduce the earned Social Security benefits of millions of state and local government employees each year. Sen. Inouye’s support brings dedicated teachers, firefighters, peace officers, and other public servants one step closer to the retirement security they deserve.