Legislative Update for Week Ending April 27, 2018

Legislative Update for Week Ending April 27, 2018

This week, The Senior Citizens League (TSCL) endorsed two bills that would expand Medicare coverage to include hearing, dental, and vision services. In addition, lawmakers prepared for a week-long recess on Friday, and two key Social Security bills gained cosponsors.

TSCL Endorses Two Medicare Bills

This week, The Senior Citizens League announced its support for two bills that would improve Medicare coverage of certain services. First, TSCL endorsed the Audiology Patient Choice Act (S. 2575, H.R. 2276), a bipartisan bill that was introduced in March by Senator Elizabeth Warren (MA) and Senator Rand Paul (KY). The bill was introduced in the House last year by Representative Tom Rice (SC-7) with the support of several cosponsors.

If adopted, the Audiology Patient Choice Act would improve Medicare coverage for hearing services that are performed by licensed audiologists. According to the bill’s sponsors, under current law, Medicare does not recognize audiologists as providers of health-related hearing services, and it will only reimburse audiologists for diagnoses when they are referred by physicians or nurse practitioners. The Audiology Patient Choice Act would ensure access to a full range of hearing services provided by licensed audiologists.

In a statement, Senator Warren said: “This bill will make a life changing difference for the millions of Americans who experience hearing loss but can’t access the care they need because of archaic regulations. I’m glad to work with Senator Paul on this common-sense step to bring down costs for our seniors.”

This week, TSCL also proudly endorsed the Seniors Have Eyes, Ears, and Teeth Act (H.R. 508), a bipartisan bill from Representative Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA-40) and 130 cosponsors in the House. If adopted, the bill would expand Medicare coverage of hearing, vision, and dental services. Currently, Medicare is prohibited from covering these critical health services, and many older Americans living on fixed incomes cannot afford to pay out-of-pocket for them.

According to Representative Roybal-Allard, almost 80 percent of those over the age of 80 suffer from hearing loss, which leads to serious injuries and health problems when left untreated. In addition, nearly 70 percent of older Americans currently have no dental insurance coverage. In a letter of endorsement, Art Cooper – Chairman of TSCL’s Board of Trustees – wrote: “It is essential for older Americans to receive the preventive care and treatment that is needed to maintain their dignity and ensure good health in retirement … Your bill would improve access to care for millions of older Americans, and we believe it would go a long way in ensuring the retirement security senior citizens have earned and deserve.”

TSCL enthusiastically supports the Audiology Patient Choice Act and the Seniors Have Eyes, Ears, and Teeth Act, and we look forward to working with their sponsors in the House and Senate to help build support for them. For more information, visit the Bill Tracking section of our website. For progress updates, follow TSCL on Twitter.

Lawmakers Adjourn for Week-Long Recess

On Friday, lawmakers in the House and Senate prepared to return to their home states and districts for a week-long recess. They are scheduled to be back in Washington on Monday, May 7th. In the meantime, many Members of Congress will be attending local events and hosting town hall meetings.

The Senior Citizens League encourages its supporters to attend these events and to ask important questions of their elected officials, like the following three…

  1. Medicare is currently prohibited from covering most hearing, vision, and dental services, even though millions of seniors are afflicted with age-related hearing loss, low vision, and poor oral health. When left untreated, these conditions often result in serious injuries and complications. What do you feel should be done about this?
  2. Earlier this month, House lawmakers voted on a balanced budget amendment to the constitution that would have been disastrous for Social Security and Medicare beneficiaries if adopted. Did you support this drastic measure, and if so, why?
  3. Most Americans contribute 6.2 percent of every paycheck to Social Security, but due to the payroll tax cap, people earning more than $128,400 contribute nothing over that amount. Eliminating the payroll tax cap would extend the solvency of the program responsibly, without cutting benefits for seniors. Do you agree?

For more information about town hall meetings near you during next week’s recess, click HERE. You can also call the local offices of your Members of Congress to request information about upcoming town halls. For contact information, click HERE.

Key Social Security Bills Gain Support

This week, The Senior Citizens League was pleased to see support grow for two key bills.

First, the bipartisan Consumer Price Index for the Elderly (CPI-E) Act (H.R. 1251) gained one new cosponsor in Representative Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11), bringing the total up to fifty. If signed into law, the bill – which was introduced by Representative John Garamendi (CA-3) last year – would improve the adequacy of the Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) by basing it on the spending patterns of older Americans.

In addition, one new cosponsor – Senator Kamala Harris (CA) – signed on to the Social Security Expansion Act (S. 427) from Senator Bernie Sanders (VT). The cosponsor total is now at three in the Senate. If adopted, the bill would strengthen and expand the Social Security program by basing COLAs on the CPI-E, increasing monthly checks by $65 per month, and improving the Special Minimum Benefit. It would cover the cost of these changes and strengthen the solvency of the trust fund by applying the payroll tax to income over $250,000 and applying a 6.2 percent tax on investment income for wealthy individuals.

TSCL was pleased to see support grow for H.R. 1251 and S. 427 this week, and we will continue to advocate for them tirelessly in the months ahead. For more information, visit the Bill Tracking section of our website.