This week on Capitol Hill, the House took up Budget Chair Paul Ryan’s (WI-1) fiscal 2013 budget proposal, and TSCL saw support grow for three key bills – the Medicare Fraud Enforcement and Prevention Act (H.R. 3735), the CPI for Seniors Act (H.R. 1086), and the Social Security Fairness Act (H.R. 1332).
House to Approve Budget Proposal
After much debate this week, the House is expected to vote in favor of Budget Chair Paul Ryan’s (WI-1) fiscal 2013 proposal. Rep. Ryan’s plan would overhaul Medicare beginning in 2023 by allowing seniors to choose between a number of private plans or traditional fee-for-service Medicare. Under the plan, the government would provide set payments to beneficiaries. Those who choose the costliest plans would pay more out of pocket, and those who choose the least expensive plans would be able to keep any money left over.
Additionally, the fiscal 2013 budget plan would overhaul the tax code, cap non-defense discretionary spending at $1.028 trillion, and cancel the automatic spending cuts required by last year’s Budget Control Act. According to Rep. Ryan, his plan would reduce the deficit by more than $5 trillion over ten years.
If approved, the fiscal 2013 budget will move to the Senate for consideration, where it has been deemed a non-starter and is expected to generate conflict over appropriations spending levels.
Support Builds for Key Legislation
This week, one new cosponsor – Rep. David Rivera (FL-25) – signed on to the Medicare Fraud Enforcement and Prevention Act (H.R. 3735). This bill, if signed into law, would create a pilot program using biometric technology to ensure that all Medicare claims are legitimate. In addition, it would allow for real-time information sharing between law enforcement agencies, and it would double the penalties for those convicted of Medicare fraud.
In a recent press release, the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (FL-18), stated, “It is time we took the fight to those who seek to defraud Medicare and prey on our most vulnerable citizens.” Medicare fraud, which costs the federal government an estimated $68 billion each year, is an enormous concern for TSCL, and we believe that the Medicare Fraud Enforcement and Prevention Act would go a long way in protecting the solvency of the Medicare program.
This week, TSCL also saw support grow for the CPI for Seniors Act (H.R. 1086). Rep. Mike Coffman (CO-6) signed on to the bill, bringing the total up to twelve. If signed into law, the CPI for Seniors Act would direct the Bureau of Labor Statistics to create a consumer price index for seniors, and to report to Congress monthly on its status. Currently, cost-of-living adjustments for seniors are calculated based upon a consumer price index for young, urban workers. “Obviously, seniors have different costs than an individual who is twenty-one. For Instance, they are going to spend a lot more of their income on health care than a younger individual,” stated the bill’s sponsor, Rep. John Duncan (TN-2). TSCL is very supportive of the CPI for Seniors Act, and we were pleased to see support grow for it this week.
Support also grew for the Social Security Fairness Act (H.R. 1332 and S. 2010) this week. Two new cosponsors – Rep. Karen Bass (CA-33) and Sen. Bernard Sanders (VT) – signed on, bringing the totals to 165 and 12, respectively. If signed into law, the Social Security Fairness Act would repeal the government pension offset (GPO) and the windfall elimination provision (WEP) – two provisions of the Social Security Act that unfairly reduce the earned benefits of millions of public servants each year. TSCL believes that Congress should repeal these provisions so that dedicated teachers, firefighters, peace officers and others receive the retirement security that they deserve.