Legislative Update for Week Ending March 8, 2019

Legislative Update for Week Ending March 8, 2019

This week, The Senior Citizens League endorsed the bipartisan Fair COLA for Seniors Act, and the Senate Finance Committee met to discuss abuse and neglect in nursing homes.

TSCL Endorses the Fair COLA for Seniors Act

This week, Congressman John Garamendi (CA-3) introduced the Fair COLA for Seniors Act (H.R. 1553) along with the bipartisan support of seventeen original cosponsors. If adopted, the bill would make Social Security cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) more adequate by basing them on the spending patterns of older Americans, using the Consumer Price Index for Elderly Consumers (CPI-E).

Under current law, COLAs fail to reflect the inflation older Americans experience because they are based on the way young, urban workers spend their money using the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners (CPI-W). On average, benefits would be 0.2 percent higher using the CPI-E, which means they would grow more quickly over time.

The Senior Citizens League enthusiastically supports the Fair COLA for Seniors Act and we believe it would go a long way in protecting the purchasing power of Social Security benefits if adopted. According to our research, Social Security benefits have lost 34 percent of their buying power since 2000 due in large part to inadequate COLAs and rising Medicare Part B premiums.

In a letter of support, Shannon Benton – Executive Director of The Senior Citizens League – wrote: “In the past year alone, thousands of our supporters have told us they’re failing to keep up with rising Medicare premiums, prescription drug prices, and home heating costs. They’re forced every day to make tough decisions about how they will spend their Social Security checks. As such, TSCL salutes you for introducing legislation that would improve the Social Security COLA … The Senior Citizens League lends its enthusiastic support to the Fair COLA for Seniors Act.”

In the months ahead, we look forward to working with Congressman Garamendi to help build support for his bipartisan bill. For progress updates or to view a list of cosponsors of the Fair COLA for Seniors Act, visit the Bill Tracking section of our website.

Senate Finance Committee Discusses Nursing Home Abuse

On Wednesday, the Senate Finance Committee held a hearing titled “Never Forgotten: Protecting Americans from Abuse and Neglect in Nursing Homes.” Lawmakers heard from a variety of witnesses at the hearing, including government officials, patient advocates, and victims of abuse and neglect.

One witness, Ms. Patricia Blank, spoke about her late mother’s experience as a victim of abuse at an Iowa nursing home that received the highest quality ratings from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) despite being fined for multiple instances of abuse.

Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (IA) said: “How a place with the highest possible rating could yield such a tragic incident is just outrageous. Things need to change, both for the standards at care facilities and for how CMS rates them. When American families consider where their loved ones can get the care they need, they should be able to rely on CMS information. That is clearly not the case right now.”

Another witnesses, Dr. Kate Goodrich – Director and Chief Medical Officer at the Center for Clinical Standards and Quality – spoke on behalf of CMS, which regulates more than 15,000 nursing homes and assisted living facilities. She outlined the changes the administration is making to reduce instances of abuse and neglect.

Dr. Goodrich spoke about updates to the Nursing Home Compare database, an online tool that allows Americans to research and compare nursing facilities. She also highlighted efforts to strengthen reporting requirements, increase transparency in the nursing home industry, and improve health outcomes for residents.

The Senior Citizens League is relieved that the administration is taking steps to reduce abuse and neglect, but we agree with Chairman Grassley that more can and must be done to address this critical issue. We will continue to monitor discussions on this topic in the months ahead, and we urge lawmakers to pass legislation that would improve the safety of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities. For updates, follow The Senior Citizens League on Twitter or visit the Legislative News section of our website.