Legislative Update for Week Ending September 13, 2013

Legislative Update for Week Ending September 13, 2013

This week, Members of Congress returned to Washington to begin working on a temporary measure that would avert a government shutdown on October 1st. In addition, The Senior Citizens League (TSCL) announced its support for one new piece of legislation, and three key bills gained cosponsors.

Lawmakers Work to Avoid Government Shutdown

This week, Members of Congress returned to Capitol Hill from the month-long summer recess to begin working on legislation that would avert a government shutdown on October 1st – the start of the 2014 fiscal year. Lawmakers have agreed that they would like to pass a stopgap bill to extend funding for federal programs through December 15th. They feel that a temporary measure will grant them the time needed to work out a more substantial fiscal package before the end of this year.

However, with two weeks to go before the October deadline, negotiations have stalled. Leaders in the House have decided to tie the temporary funding extension to a measure that would defund the Affordable Care Act. Currently, a number of political strategies are being considered, but members of both political parties are unsatisfied with the options that leaders have put forth so far.

Members of the House were scheduled to vote on a stopgap funding measure on Tuesday, but leaders have delayed the vote until next week due to a lack of support. It remains to be seen whether or not lawmakers will successfully avert the shutdown, but Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers (KY-) remains optimistic. He said of the delay this week: “We’ve got some time left here, and conversations are taking place among the various elements … It’s not time to panic.”

TSCL is hopeful that lawmakers will pass a stopgap measure before the October deadline, since a government shutdown could negatively impact Social Security and Medicare beneficiaries. We will keep a close eye on the evolving negotiations over the next two weeks, and we will post updates here in the Legislative News section of our website.

TSCL Announces Support for New Bill

On Thursday, TSCL announced its support for the Elder Protection and Abuse Prevention Act (S. 1019 and H.R. 3090). Sen. Richard Blumenthal (CT) introduced the bill in the Senate, and Rep. Matt Cartwright (PA-17) introduced the companion in the House. If signed into law, the bill would expand the federal definition of elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation. It would also incorporate elder abuse prevention trainings, screenings, and reporting protocols into all senior service access points that receive federal funding under the bill.

Elder abuse affects an estimated 14.1 percent of all non-institutionalized older adults each year, and for every case reported, another twenty-three cases go unnoticed. It is a serious and ongoing problem that Congress must tackle as soon as possible in order to ensure the retirement security of seniors.

In a statement that was released shortly after the bill’s introduction, Sen. Blumenthal stated, “The seniors who spent a lifetime working to make our country stronger deserve peace of mind that their retirement years will not be marked by suffering.” TSCL could not agree more, and we look forward to working with Sen. Blumenthal and Rep. Cartwright in the coming months to help build support for their bill, and to help pass it into law.

Three Bills Gain Cosponsors

This week, five new cosponsors signed on to the Social Security Fairness Act (S. 896 and H.R. 1795), bringing the total up to thirteen in the Senate and ninety-two in the House. The new cosponsors are Sen. Jeff Merkley (OR) and Reps. Charles Boustany, Jr. (LA-3), Thomas Massie (KY-4), Bill Shuster (PA-9), and Barbara Lee (CA-13). If signed into law, H.R. 1795 would repeal two provisions of the Social Security Act that unfairly reduce the earned benefits of millions of state and local government employees each year. The provisions – the Windfall Elimination Provision and the Government Pension Offset – prevent dedicated public servants from receiving the retirement security they have earned.

In addition, three new cosponsors signed on to the Preventing and Reducing Improper Medicare and Medicaid Expenditures (PRIME) Act (S. 1123 and H.R. 2305) this week, bringing the total up to twenty-four in the Senate and thirty-four in the House. If signed into law, the comprehensive bill would take a number of steps to prevent fraud, waste, and abuse within the two programs – a problem that TSCL believes must be addressed in order to ensure that scarce program dollars are being spent properly. The new cosponsors are Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI), Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (NH-1), and Rep. Jackie Speier (CA-14).

Finally, one new cosponsor – Rep. Alcee Hastings (FL-20) – signed on to the Medicare Physician Payment Innovation Act (H.R. 574) this week bringing the total up to thirty-seven. If signed into law, H.R. 574 would repeal and replace the sustainable growth rate (SGR), which is the flawed formula that is currently used to determine reimbursements for physicians who treat Medicare patients. Adopting H.R. 574 would bring increased stability to the Medicare program for both physicians and beneficiaries.

TSCL enthusiastically supports the bills mentioned above, and we look forward to helping build support for them in the coming months.