Legislative Update for Week Ending March 21, 2014

Legislative Update for Week Ending March 21, 2014

This week, Members of the House and Senate adjourned for a week-long recess. In the meantime, lawmakers continued to work on legislation to repeal and replace the sustainable growth rate (SGR) formula, and The Senior Citizens League (TSCL) saw two key bills gain support.

SGR Work Continues Despite Recess

Late last week, on Friday afternoon, Members of the House passed legislation that would repeal and replace the SGR, and offset the $138 billion cost with a five-year delay of the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate penalty. The bill is not expected to advance in the Senate, and President Obama issued a veto threat immediately. Nonetheless, the bill’s passage represents an important step forward.

If the Senate passes a version of its own before the March 31st deadline, leaders in the House and Senate will appoint conferees who will be charged with negotiating a compromise. Rep. Red Upton (MI-6), Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, urged his colleagues to remain optimistic this week, saying: “Let’s go to conference. Let’s work with the Senate to get a pay-for that can work.”

According to reporters, Senate staffers are hard at work this week searching for potential offsets that both sides could agree upon. Negotiations will continue in earnest next week, once lawmakers return to Capitol Hill from the week-long recess. If they fail to reach an agreement by April 1st, doctors who treat Medicare patients will see a 24 percent pay cut, which would likely jeopardize seniors’ access to quality medical care. As was mentioned in last week’s update, a temporary “doc fix” might be necessary in order to buy more time.

TSCL is hopeful that lawmakers will successfully repeal and replace the SGR before the looming deadline, since a permanent solution would bring much-needed stability to Medicare for both doctors and seniors. We will continue to monitor the negotiations closely in the coming days, and we will post updates here in the Legislative News section of our website.

Two Bills Gain Critical Support

This week, one new cosponsor – Rep. Bill Posey (FL-8) – signed on to the No Social Security for Illegal Immigrants Act (H.R. 2745). The total is now up to twenty-seven. If signed into law, the bill would prevent Social Security credits from being earned by work done illegally. Currently, those who receive “green cards” or work authorization may file a claim for Social Security benefits based on all earnings – even earnings from jobs where they used stolen, invalid, or fraudulent Social Security numbers. We believe that this practice must be put to an end in order to protect the integrity of the Social Security program.

In addition, two new cosponsors – Reps. Doris Matsui (CA-6) and Michael Honda (CA-17) – signed on to the Elder Protection and Abuse Prevention Act (H.R. 3090) this week, bringing the total up to forty-seven. If signed into law, the bill would incorporate elder abuse prevention trainings, screenings, and reporting protocols into all senior service access points that receive federal funding. H.R. 3090 would take an important step in preventing elder abuse – a problem that affects an estimated 14.1 percent of all non-institutionalized older adults each year.

TSCL enthusiastically supports H.R. 2745 and H.R. 3090, and we were pleased to see support grow for them this week.