Legislative Update for Week Ending May 2, 2014

Legislative Update for Week Ending May 2, 2014

This week, lawmakers turned their attention towards a series of fiscal 2015 appropriations bills. Meanwhile, one House subcommittee met to discuss Medicare fraud, The Senior Citizens League’s (TSCL’s) legislative team met with several Members of Congress and their top aides, and three key bills gained cosponsors.

Health Subcommittee Discusses Medicare Fraud

On Wednesday, the Ways and Means Health Subcommittee held a hearing on Medicare fraud, waste, and abuse, where Members of Congress heard testimony from three government officials from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Government Accountability Office (GAO), and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). At the hearing, the witnesses spoke about recent efforts to prevent fraud, and they offered recommendations to the subcommittee members for potential policy solutions.

A number of critical topics were covered at Wednesday’s hearing, including the need for increased collaboration between Medicare and Medicaid, the importance of educating providers to properly submit claims for medical services, and the goal of removing Social Security numbers from Medicare cards to prevent identity theft.

In addition, many subcommittee members expressed their frustration with CMS for making payments on behalf of those who do not even qualify for the Medicare program. In his opening statement, Chairman Kevin Brady (TX-8) stated, “In the past year … Medicare has paid for services to those who are deceased, in prison, and not entitled for benefits. All this while, Medicare’s main trust fund is on a crash course with insolvency in a short twelve years.”

According to recent estimates, at least $44 billion was lost to improper Medicare payments last year. It is clear that the government is not administering the necessary oversight to ensure that scarce program dollars are being spent properly. To address the issue in a comprehensive way, TSCL believes Congress should pass the Preventing and Reducing Improper Medicare and Medicaid Expenditures (PRIME) Act (H.R. 2305 and S. 1123). We urge our members and supporters to contact their elected officials to request their support for the bill, and in the coming months, we will continue to advocate for it on Capitol Hill.

TSCL Meets with Congressional Offices

This week, TSCL’s legislative team, which includes former Congressman David Funderburk and Mrs. Betty Funderburk, met with several Members of Congress and their top staff to discuss issues of critical importance to seniors. The following bills, among others, were discussed this week: the Consumer Price Index for Elderly Consumers (CPI-E) Act (H.R. 1030), the Social Security Fairness Act (H.R. 1795), the PRIME Act (H.R. 2305), the Notch Fairness Act (H.R. 155), the No Social Security for Illegal Immigrants Act (H.R. 2745), and the Medicare Physician Payment Innovation Act (H.R. 574).

TSCL would like to thank the following Members of Congress and their top aides for taking time out of their busy schedules to discuss issues of critical importance to seniors: Rep. Morgan Griffith (VA-9), Rep. Joe Garcia (FL-26), Rep. Vance McAllister (LA-5), Don Andres (Legislative Assistant for Rep. Steven Horsford (NV-4)), Andrew Wolfe (Legislative Assistant for Rep. Matt Cartwright (PA-17)), Gordon Larsen (Legislative Director for Rep. Chris Stewart (UT-2)), Devon Seibert (Legislative Director for Rep. David McKinley (WV-1)), Courtney Titus (Legislative Director for Rep. Tom Rice (SC-7)), Spencer Launer (Legislative Assistant for Rep. Julia Brownley (CA-26)), Kirk McPike (Chief of Staff for Rep. Mark Takano (CA-41)), and Amanda Eaton (Senior Legislative Assistant for Rep. Mark Takano (CA-41)).

Key Bills Gain Support

This week, two new cosponsors – Reps. Ted Deutch (FL-21) and Gene Green (TX-29) – signed on to the Notch Fairness Act (H.R. 155), bringing the total up to twenty-one. The bill, if signed into law, would give individuals born between the years 1917 and 1926 the option of a $5,000 lump-sum benefit payment payable over four years or an improved monthly Social Security benefit. Just years before these individuals were set to retire, they learned that they would have significantly lower benefits than originally anticipated. The problem has grown and compounded with inflation, and TSCL believes H.R. 155 would begin to correct the injustice.

In addition, two new cosponsors – Sen. Edward Markey (MA) and Rep. Doris Matsui (CA-6) – signed on to the Social Security Fairness Act (S. 896 and H.R. 1795), bringing the total up to eighteen in the Senate, and up to one hundred and eighteen in the House. If signed into law, the Social Security Fairness Act would repeal the Government Pension Offset (GPO) and the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) – two provisions that unfairly reduce the earned Social Security benefits of millions of teachers, fire fighters, peace officers, and other state or local government employees each year.

Finally, three new cosponsors – Reps. Frank LoBiondo (NJ-2), Shelley Moore Capito (WV-2), and Ander Crenshaw (FL-4) – signed on to the Improving Access to Medicare Coverage Act (H.R. 1179). The cosponsor total is now at one hundred and forty-three. If signed into law, the bill would amend current Medicare policy to count hospital stays under “observation status” towards the three-day requirement for skilled nursing care. Currently, those under “observation status” don’t qualify for coverage of the benefit, and they are often hit with large, unexpected bills after receiving necessary medical care.

TSCL enthusiastically supports H.R. 155, S. 896, H.R. 1795, and H.R. 1179, and we were pleased to see support grow for each one this week.