Legislative Update for Week Ending September 29, 2017

Legislative Update for Week Ending September 29, 2017

This week, the Senate Finance Committee held a hearing to discuss the “Graham-Cassidy” plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and three Senate Republicans announced their opposition to it. In addition, The Senior Citizens League (TSCL) endorsed four new Senate bills and one new bill from the House of Representatives.

“Graham-Cassidy” Plan Fails to Win Senate Support

On Monday, the Senate Finance Committee met to discuss the “Graham-Cassidy” plan to repeal the ACA just days before lawmakers were scheduled to vote on its passage. Those on the committee heard from several expert witnesses, including Senators Lindsey Graham (SC) and Bill Cassidy (LA) – the bill’s sponsors. After a number of protesters were escorted out of the hearing on Monday afternoon, lawmakers discussed the plan in detail. Many advocated in support of the bill while others expressed serious concerns about it.

Teresa Miller – Acting Secretary of Pennsylvania’s Department of Health and Human Services – explained how the “Graham-Cassidy” plan would leave her state with severe funding shortages and coverage losses. She said: “This would be the largest intergovernmental transfer of financial responsibility from the federal government to states in our country’s history.” She urged lawmakers on the Finance Committee to scrap the “Graham-Cassidy” proposal and focus on bipartisan solutions that would stabilize the ACA’s marketplaces before it is too late.

Senator Mazie Hirono (HI) – another witness at Monday’s hearing – agreed with Ms. Miller. She said, “I urge my colleagues: Let’s do what’s right for the millions of our constituents and their families, set this bill aside, and work together to find bipartisan agreement to strengthen the Affordable Care Act.”

Following Monday’s hearing, Senator Susan Collins (ME) announced her opposition to the healthcare repeal bill. She said in a statement: “Health care is a deeply personal, complex issue that affects every single one of us and one-sixth of the American economy …. This is simply not the way that we should be approaching an important and complex issue that must be handled thoughtfully and fairly for all Americans.”

Without Collins’ vote, the “Graham-Cassidy” plan did not have the support it needed to advance, and Senator Mitch McConnell (KY) called off the vote on the bill on Tuesday afternoon. He told reporters: “We haven’t given up on changing the American healthcare system. We are not going to be able to do that this week, but it still lies ahead of us and we haven’t given up on that.”

TSCL is pleased that the “Graham-Cassidy” proposal was defeated this week since its passage would have negatively impacted the health and financial security of older Americans in several ways. In the days and weeks ahead, we will continue to monitor the evolving healthcare discussions on Capitol Hill, and we will post updates here in the Legislative News section of our website.

TSCL Endorses Four New Bills

 This week, TSCL endorsed four new Senate bills and one new House bill that would support the growing needs of older Americans if signed into law.

The first bill is S. 1348, the Stopping the Pharmaceutical Industry from Keeping Drugs Expensive (SPIKE) Act of 2017, introduced by Senator Ron Wyden (OR). If signed into law, S. 1348 would mandate pharmaceutical companies to explain any price increase of over 100% of the value of any drug. Considering the astronomical increases in prescription drugs, TSCL feels that seniors deserve transparency and fairness in understanding how life saving pharmaceutical drugs are priced.

The second bill is S. 1347, the RxCAP Act of 2017, which was also introduced by Senator Wyden. If signed into law, S. 1347 would reduce the amount of out-of-pocket expenses many Medicare Part D beneficiaries must pay in order to afford their prescription drugs when they fall into the coverage gap or “doughnut hole.” TSCL has long supported efforts to close the Medicare “doughnut hole,” and we applaud Senator Wyden for leading the effort to abolish this unfair policy.

The third bill, introduced by Senator Sherrod Brown (OH), is S. 915, the Social Security Fairness Act. S.915 is the Senate accompaniment to House bill H.R. 1205. If adopted, it would eliminate the Government Pension Offset (GPO) and Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) – two provisions that unfairly reduce the earned Social Security benefits of millions of public servants each year. TSCL is optimistic that both chambers can come together and pass this important piece of bipartisan legislation.

The fourth and final Senate bill was introduced by Senator Bill Nelson (FL) in response to the terrible tragedies America witnessed following Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. S. 1834 would create a national advisory committee to increase coordination between public officials on federal, state, and local levels to better plan for and address the needs of seniors during natural disasters. TSCL is pleased to announce that this necessary effort also has a House complement in Congresswoman Lois Frankel’s (FL-21) bill, H.3826.

The bipartisan support for both the House and Senate versions of the bill show that the needs of senior citizens during natural disasters transcend party divisions.

TSCL is proud to endorse new legislation from Senators Wyden, Brown, and Nelson and Congresswoman Frankel. We look forward to working with them in the months ahead to build support for their bills and to help sign them into law. For updates on the progress of these and other bills in Congress, visit the Bill Tracking section of our website.