Legislative Update for Week Ending March 4, 2016

Legislative Update for Week Ending March 4, 2016

This week, budget talks continued on Capitol Hill while The Senior Citizens League (TSCL) saw one key bill gain critical support.

Budget Talks Continue to Move Slowly

Talks continued among leaders in the House about their fiscal 2017 budget resolution this week. On Thursday, Rep. Tom Price (GA-6) – Chairman of the House Budget Committee – presented a $1.07 trillion proposal to the House Republican Conference that would fully repeal the Affordable Care Act. The plan also includes language that would cut $30 billion in mandatory spending from programs like Medicare and Medicaid over just two years.

That set of cuts would be voted on separately, and it was added to the package in an attempt to appease members of the House Freedom Caucus. However, Rep. Jim Jordan (OH-4) – Chairman of the Freedom Caucus – said on Thursday, “I’m not enthused about the proposal.” Several others who belong to the 40-member group said they would not support it either unless it includes more substantial spending cuts. That’s a problem for leaders in the House because they will need to rely on the support of that group, including six who sit on the Budget Committee, in order for the resolution to be adopted.

In a news conference on Thursday, Speaker Paul Ryan (WI-1) said leaders will continue working on the budget resolution during next week’s recess, and he hopes to schedule a markup of it during the week of March 14th. Speaker Ryan told reporters, “We are still on track and on schedule. Remember, our deadline is not until April 15 for the budget resolution. So we are still a good month ahead of where we otherwise would be.”

TSCL will continue to monitor the talks closely in the weeks ahead, since a budget resolution could impact the Social Security and Medicare programs if adopted. Past budgets proposed in the House have included measures that would cut Social Security cost-of-living adjustments and adopt a premium support model for the Medicare program, where beneficiaries would be given vouchers to purchase private insurance. TSCL opposes both of these changes, and we will advocate against them in the months ahead if they are proposed once again this year. For updates on the discussions, follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Key Bill Gains Support

One new cosponsor signed on to Rep. Peter Welch’s (VT) Medicare Prescription Drug Price Negotiation Act (H.R. 3061) this week, bringing the total up to twenty-seven. The new cosponsor is Rep. Eric Swalwell (CA-15).

If signed into law, H.R. 3061 would require the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to negotiate prescription drug prices on behalf of Medicare Part D’s 40 million beneficiaries. If the federal government were allowed to negotiate prices like it does for Medicaid and the Veterans Health Administration, the Medicare program would save billions of dollars annually, and Part D beneficiaries would have greater access to affordable prescription drugs.

TSCL enthusiastically supports the Medicare Prescription Drug Price Negotiation Act and we believe its passage is more necessary now than ever before. Prescription drug prices continue to rise at alarming rates while millions of Social Security beneficiaries living on fixed incomes are going without annual cost-of-living adjustments. TSCL believes H.R. 3061 would go a long way in reducing the rising costs of prescription drugs, and we will advocate for it tirelessly on Capitol Hill in the months ahead.