This week, Members of Congress continued to focus on a series of fiscal 2015 appropriations bills – including one that would provide funding for the Social Security Administration (SSA) and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). In addition, The Senior Citizens League (TSCL) announced its support for a new piece of legislation, and two key bills gained cosponsors.
Appropriations Talks Continue
This week, appropriators in the House and Senate continued making progress on a number of fiscal 2015 bills. Notably, House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers (KY-5) released a plan to trim funding slightly for the contentious Labor-HHS-Education measure, which the Social Security and Medicare programs both fall under. The plan would provide $155.7 billion in funding for the measure, which is approximately $1 billion below the current funding level.
Despite the proposed decrease in funding, many feel that the plan from Chairman Rogers is a positive sign. The cut is negligible when compared to last year’s proposal – for fiscal 2014, the House and Senate committees were more than $42 billion apart in their Labor-HHS-Education funding plans. The minor cut for fiscal 2015 likely means that appropriators in the House are hoping to compromise with the Senate Appropriations Committee, which has not yet released a proposal for the contentious measure.
According to Congressional Quarterly, appropriators will begin conference negotiations to reconcile their fiscal 2015 bills this summer, leaving plenty of time before the mid-term elections and the October 1st start of the fiscal year. In the meantime, TSCL will continue to keep a close eye on the Labor-HHS-Education measure, since significant funding decreases could negatively impact the Social Security and Medicare programs.
TSCL Supports New Bill
This week, TSCL announced its support for the Improving Care for Vulnerable Older Citizens through Workforce Advancement Act (S. 2251 and H.R. 4445), which was introduced by Sen. Bob Casey (PA) in the Senate, and by Rep. Matt Cartwright (PA-17) in the House. If signed into law, the bill would create six different demonstration projects that would focus on the coordination of care for elderly patients with multiple chronic illnesses. It would put Direct Care Workers – such as nursing assistants, home health aides, or personal care aides – in advanced roles, and it would test and evaluate different models of care coordination.
According to Rep. Cartwright, Direct Care Workers currently provide 70-80 percent of the paid, hands-on care that those with chronic illnesses receive. However, they are not recognized as “essential contributors” to teams that provide care, and they do not receive the advanced training that is needed for them to realize their full potential. S. 2251 and H.R. 4445 would address this issue, and TSCL believes if signed into law, the bill would go a long way in ensuring that seniors receive coordinated, quality medical care.
We look forward to working with Sen. Casey and Rep. Cartwright in the coming months to help build support for this important bill. In addition, we urge our members and supporters to contact their elected officials to request their support for it. For contact information, CLICK HERE.
Two Key Bills Gain Support
This week, one new cosponsor – Rep. David Valadao (CA-21) – signed on to Rep. John Duncan’s (TN-2) CPI for Seniors Act (H.R. 2154). The cosponsor total is now at six. If signed into law, H.R. 2154 would create a new consumer price index specifically for senior citizens for the purpose of establishing a more accurate Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA). Currently, COLAs are based upon the way young, urban workers spend their money, using the CPI-W. However, seniors spend a disproportionate share of their income on healthcare, and the CPI-W fails to capture that. Each year, it underestimates the spending inflation that seniors experience. TSCL enthusiastically supports the CPI for Seniors Act, and we were pleased to see one new cosponsor sign on this week.
In addition, one new cosponsor – Rep. Corrine Brown (FL-5) – signed on to the Improving Access to Medicare Coverage Act (H.R. 1179). The cosponsor total is now up to one hundred and forty-four. If signed into law, H.R. 1179 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 believes the current policy is unfair, and we were glad to see support grow for H.R. 1179 this week.