Legislative Update for Week Ending May 3, 2019

Legislative Update for Week Ending May 3, 2019

This week, lawmakers returned to Capitol Hill following a two-week spring recess, and one member of The Senior Citizens League’s (TSCL’s) Board of Trustees visited Capitol Hill to advocate for legislation that would improve the Social Security and Medicare programs. In addition, two key bills gained support in the House and Senate.

TSCL’s Board of Trustees on Capitol Hill

This week, one member of TSCL’s Board of Trustees – Legislative Liaison Joe Kluck – visited Capitol Hill to advocate for legislation that would strengthen and improve the Social Security and Medicare programs. The following key issues were discussed in several meetings with Members of Congress and congressional staff this week:

  • Improving the Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA). According to TSCL’s research, Social Security benefits have lost over 30 percent of their buying power since 2000 due in large part to inadequate COLAs and rising health care costs. The bipartisan Fair COLA for Seniors Act (H.R. 1553) would improve the annual COLA by adopting the Consumer Price Index for the Elderly (CPI-E), which more adequately measures the inflation seniors experience.
  • Expanding Medicare coverage to include dental care. Millions of seniors are afflicted with age-related oral health issues. Yet under current law, the Medicare program is prohibited from covering most routine and emergency dental procedures, including fillings, root canals, extractions, and cleanings. The Medicare Dental Benefit Act (S. 22) would expand Medicare Part B coverage to include basic dental services and ensure that older Americans have access to the primary and preventive care that is needed to ensure good health in retirement.
  • Allowing individuals to import prescription drugs from abroad. Many Medicare beneficiaries spend thousands of dollars every month on lifesaving medications under the Part D program. The bipartisan Safe and Affordable Drugs from Canada Act (S. 61) would allow these individuals import their prescription drugs from approved pharmacies in Canada, where medicines are often half the cost. This critical bill would improve access to affordable medication for older Americans, and it would bring down costs nationwide by increasing competition in the American marketplace.

In addition to advocating for these three important issues, Legislative Liaison Joe Kluck delivered letters to lawmakers on the House Ways and Means Social Security Subcommittee urging them to advance comprehensive proposals that would enhance Social Security benefits and strengthen the solvency of the Trust Funds past 2035. Both the Social Security 2100 Act (H.R. 860) and the Social Security Expansion Act (H.R. 1170) would reform the program responsibly, without cutting benefits for current or future retirees.

For more information about legislation that would strengthen the Social Security and Medicare programs, visit the Bill Tracking section of our website. For frequent updates from TSCL on Capitol Hill and to view photos from this week, follow us on Twitter.

Key Bills Gain Support in Congress

This week, The Senior Citizens League was pleased to see support grow for two key bills that would strengthen the Social Security program. First, one new cosponsor – Representative Peter Visclosky (IN-1) – signed on to the Protecting and Preserving Social Security Act (H.R. 2302), bringing the total up to eight cosponsors.

If adopted, this key bill would improve Social Security COLAs by basing them on the CPI-E, and it would cover the cost by phasing out the payroll tax cap over the course of seven years. Together, these changes would improve the adequacy of Social Security benefits and strengthen the solvency of the Trust Funds past 2035.

Second, six new cosponsors signed on to the Social Security Fairness Act (S. 521, H.R. 141), bringing the cosponsor total up to thirty in the Senate and 163 in the House of Representatives. The new cosponsors are: Senator Dianne Feinstein (CA), Senator Kyrsten Sinema (AZ), Representative Colin Allred (TX-32), Representative Elaine Luria (VA-2), Representative Susan Davis (CA-53), and Representative Sean Casten (IL-6).

If adopted, this bipartisan bill would repeal the Government Pension Offset (GPO) and the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) – two Social Security provisions that cut the benefits of millions of teachers, police officers, and other state or local government employees. By repealing these two provisions, the Social Security Fairness Act would ensure that all public servants receive the Social Security benefits they have earned and deserve.

The Senior Citizens League enthusiastically supports the Protecting and Preserving Social Security Act and the Social Security Fairness Act, and we were pleased to see them gain new cosponsors this week. In the months ahead, we will continue to advocate for their passage on Capitol Hill. For progress updates, visit the Bill Tracking section of our website.