Legislative Update for Week Ending April 13, 2018

Legislative Update for Week Ending April 13, 2018

This week, lawmakers returned to Washington following a two-week spring recess and voted on a balanced budget amendment to the constitution that would have been disastrous for Social Security and Medicare benefits if adopted. The Senior Citizens League (TSCL) also saw several key bills gain new cosponsors.

Lawmakers Defeat Balanced Budget Amendment

This week, lawmakers in the House and Senate returned to Capitol Hill and turned their attention towards the growing budget deficit. Those in the House voted on Thursday on a balanced budget amendment to the constitution that would have had serious impacts on programs like Social Security and Medicare if adopted.

The balanced budget amendment that was under consideration this week would have forbidden Congress from spending more than it collects each year in federal revenues. That means Social Security would be prohibited from using the $2.9 trillion it has in reserves under current law to pay out benefits. Instead, the program would have to rely solely on the payroll taxes and other revenues it collects each year. When those payroll tax revenues run out as they inevitably would, Social Security benefits would be cut unless Congress could agree to override the cuts with a three-fifths vote.

Other programs would be similarly impacted by the balanced budget amendment if it were adopted. Medicare Part A – which covers hospital care and some long-term care for older Americans – would also be prohibited from using its trust fund reserves, and beneficiaries would likely see cuts to their Medicare benefits.

This week, The Senior Citizens League advocated tirelessly against the adoption of the balanced budget amendment, and we were pleased that it ultimately failed to win the support it needed in the House to advance. TSCL also endorsed new legislation (H.R. 5466) from Congressman Ted Deutch (FL-22) this week that would protect the earned benefits of older Americans by exempting Social Security and Medicare from any requirements of a balanced budget amendment.

In a letter of support, Art Cooper – Chairman of TSCL’s Board of Trustees – wrote: “The amendment currently under consideration would be disastrous for older Americans and cuts to their essential benefits would be inevitable … TSCL lends its enthusiastic support to H.R. 5466, a bill that we believe would go a long way in protecting the retirement security older Americans have earned and deserve.”

In the days and weeks ahead, The Senior Citizens League will continue to oppose drastic measures like the balanced budget amendment to the constitution, and we will advocate for H.R. 5466, which would protect the hard-earned benefits of senior citizens against irresponsible cuts. For updates, follow TSCL on Twitter.

Four Key Bills Gain Support

This week, one new cosponsor – Representative Tim Walberg (MI-7) – signed on in support of the CPI for Seniors Act (H.R. 2016), bringing the total up to five. If signed into law, this bipartisan bill from Representative John Duncan, Jr. (TN-2) would direct the Bureau of Labor Statistics to create and publish a new inflation index specifically for seniors for the purpose of establishing a more accurate Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA).

One new cosponsor also signed on to the Concentrating on High-Value Alzheimer's Needs to Get to an End (CHANGE) Act (S. 2387), bringing the total up to six. The new cosponsor is Senator Jeanne Shaheen (NH). If adopted, Senator Shelley Capito’s bill would direct the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to create programs that would promote early identification of Alzheimer’s disease, improve support for family caregivers, and provide continuous care for those battling many forms of dementia.

The Standardizing Electronic Prior Authorization for Safe Prescribing Act of 2018 (H.R. 4841) also gained one new cosponsor this week in Representative Steve Stivers (OH-15), bringing the new cosponsor total to eleven. If signed into law, H.R. 4841 from Representative David Schweikert (AZ-6) would allow for and standardize electronic prior authorization (ePA) for Medicare Part D beneficiaries.

Finally, two new cosponsors – Representatives Suzan Delbene (WA-1) and John Larson (CT-1) – signed on to the Expanding Access to Evidence-Based Opioid Treatment for Seniors Act (H.R. 5083), bringing the total up to six. This new bill from Representative Richard Neal (MA-1) would direct the Medicare program to cover certain services provided by opioid addiction treatment programs.

The Senior Citizens League thanks the new cosponsors of these important bills for their support, and we look forward to working with their offices in the months ahead to help sign these bills into law. For more information about these and other bills, visit the Bill Tracking section of our website.