Legislative Update for Week Ending March 1, 2019

Legislative Update for Week Ending March 1, 2019

This week, one Senate committee held a hearing to question the leaders of the pharmaceutical industry, and The Senior Citizens League (TSCL) saw one key Social Security bill gain support in the House of Representatives.

Senate Hears from Pharmaceutical Executives

On Tuesday, the Senate Finance Committee held a highly anticipated hearing titled “Drug Pricing in America: A Prescription for Change.” The executives of seven of the largest pharmaceutical companies – including Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson – testified before members of the committee.

In his opening statement, Chairman Chuck Grassley (IA) issued a warning to the executives, saying: “We’ve all seen the finger-pointing. Every link the supply chain has gotten skilled at that. But like most Americans, I’m sick and tired of the blame game. It’s time for solutions.”

Nonetheless, throughout the hearing, those who testified insisted that they are not fully to blame for the high prices of prescription drugs, and that health insurers and pharmacy benefit managers play a large role in setting prices.

In response, Ranking Member Ron Wyden (OR) told the executives that they alone have the power to reduce prices. He said: “I think you and others in the industry are stonewalling on the key issue, which is actually lowering list prices. Lowering those list prices is the easiest way for consumers to pay less at the pharmacy counter.”

The Senior Citizens League agrees that pharmaceutical companies must begin reducing prices for seniors and other consumers of high-cost prescription drugs. In addition, we urge lawmakers in Congress to take action this year to pass legislation that would increase competition and bring down prices for older Americans.

The Senior Citizens League has endorsed several bills in the new Congress – including the following three – that have bipartisan support and would go a long way in reducing prescription drug prices.

  1. The Medicare Prescription Drug Price Negotiation Act (H.R. 275), which was introduced by Congressmen Peter Welch (VT) and Francis Rooney (FL-19), would require the federal government to negotiate lower Medicare Part D prices on behalf of Medicare beneficiaries.
  2. The Safe and Affordable Drugs from Canada Act (S. 61), introduced by Senators Chuck Grassley (IA) and Amy Klobuchar (MN), would allow individuals to safely import prescriptions from approved pharmacies in Canada.
  3. The Preserve Access to Affordable Generics and Biosimilars Act (S. 64), also introduced by Senators Grassley and Klobuchar, would prohibit anti-competitive pay-for-delay deals that keep much cheaper generic and biosimilar medicines off the market.

In the months ahead, The Senior Citizens League’s legislative team will continue to advocate for these commonsense bills, and we urge Congress to sign them into law in the 116th Congress. For progress updates, follow TSCL on Twitter or visit the Legislative News section of our website.

Key Social Security Bill Gains Support

This week, TSCL was pleased to see support grow for the Social Security Fairness Act (H.R. 141). The bipartisan bill sponsored by Congressman Rodney Davis (IL-13) gained eight new cosponsors, bringing the total up to 110. The new cosponsors are: Representatives Mike Levin (CA-49), Jackie Speier (CA-14), Jared Huffman (CA-2), Katherine Clark (MA-5), Ami Bera (CA-7), Joe Kennedy (MA-4), Lori Trahan (MA-3), and Scott Peters (CA-52).

If adopted, the Social Security Fairness Act would repeal the Government Pension Offset (GPO) and the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) – two Social Security provisions that cut the benefits of millions of teachers, police officers, and other state or local government employees. By repealing these two provisions, the Social Security Fairness Act would ensure that all public servants receive the Social Security benefits they have earned and deserve.

The Senior Citizens League enthusiastically supports the Social Security Fairness Act, and we were pleased to see it gain eight new cosponsors this week. In the months ahead, we will continue to advocate for its passage on Capitol Hill. For updates on its progress, visit the Bill Tracking section of our website.