Legislative Update for Week Ending February 16, 2018

Legislative Update for Week Ending February 16, 2018

This week, President Donald Trump released his highly anticipated fiscal 2019 budget request. In addition, The Senior Citizens League (TSCL) endorsed one new bill that would improve access to medications for Medicare Part D beneficiaries, and four key bills gained support.

White House Releases Budget Proposal

On Monday, President Donald Trump released his highly anticipated $4.4 trillion fiscal 2019 budget request. The proposal boosts defense spending by nearly $780 billion, cuts all other discretionary spending by over 40 percent, and does not balance the budget over the next ten years as expected.

If adopted, the proposal would impact older Americans in several ways, including the following nine:

  • It would fully repeal the Affordable Care Act, leaving millions of older Americans who are not yet eligible for Medicare without health insurance.
  • It would restructure Medicaid and cut more than $1 trillion in federal funds to the program, which covers the cost of long-term care for millions of seniors.
  • It would cut federal funding for nursing homes and home-health agencies by $80 billion, which would be catastrophic for those who rely on the costly services.
  • It would reduce Medicare spending by $237 billion by limiting certain treatments deemed wasteful and restructuring reimbursements to some providers. Those changes could impact access to medical care for seniors if implemented.
  • It would reduce costs for Medicare Part D beneficiaries who reach the catastrophic coverage threshold for their prescription drugs, but increase costs for those who fall just under the threshold.
  • It would eliminate the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which helps many older Americans afford costly home heating bills and other basic utilities.
  • It would cut over $200 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and dramatically reform the program that helps millions of low-income seniors and other Americans.
  • It would cut more than $70 billion from the Social Security Disability Insurance program by reducing the retroactive benefits many disabled beneficiaries receive when they first qualify for the program.
  • It would provide an extra $13 billion in funds to combat the opioid epidemic, which affects Americans of all ages – including those over the age of sixty-five.

The proposal released this week is not expected to gain traction on Capitol Hill since just last week lawmakers adopted a two-year bipartisan budget deal of their own, but it does clearly outline the priorities of the Trump administration. TSCL will be keeping a close eye on the budget negotiations in the weeks ahead, and we will continue to post updates here in the Legislative News section of our website.

TSCL Endorses New Medicare Bill

This week, TSCL is proud to announce its endorsement of H.R. 4841, the Standardizing Electronic Prior Authorization for Safe Prescribing Act of 2018. If signed into law H.R. 4841 would allow for and standardize electronic prior authorization (ePA) for Medicare Part D beneficiaries, a regulatory change that would make it easier for Medicare beneficiaries to access their prescription drugs.

Upon introducing the bill, Representative David Schweikert (AZ-6) said: “Standardizing ePA will improve efficiencies in Medicare and ensure safe prescribing for patients. Individuals will no longer be turned away from the pharmacy counter and can begin their doctor-prescribed therapies without delay.”

TSCL thanks Rep. Schweikert for his leadership on this important issue, and we look forward to working with his office to help build support for H.R. 4841. For updates on the bill’s movement, visit the Bill Tracking section of our website.

Four Key Bills Gain Support

This week, TSCL saw support grow for four key bills in the House and Senate.

First, the Social Security Fairness Act (S. 915) gained two new cosponsors in Senator Amy Klobuchar (MN) and Senator Maggie Hassan (NH), bringing the cosponsor total to twenty. If adopted, S. 915 would repeal the Government Pension Offset (GPO) and Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) – two provisions that unfairly reduce the earned Social Security benefits of millions of teachers, police officers, and other public servants each year.

Second, the Nursing Home CARE Act (H.R. 4704) gained one new cosponsor in Representative Yvette Clarke (NY-9), bringing the cosponsor total to fifteen. If adopted, H.R. 4704 would protect Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries by more quickly codifying emergency preparedness rules for nursing home facilities that receive funding from the federal government.

Third, the BENES Act of 2017 (H.R. 2575) gained three new cosponsors in Representative Carolyn Maloney (NY-12), Representative Steve Cohen (TN-9), and Representative Tom MacArthur (NJ-3), bringing the cosponsor total to seventeen. If signed into law, H.R. 2575 would simplify Medicare enrollment and help those nearing Medicare eligibility complete the application process.

Finally, the CREATES Act of 2017 (H.R. 2212) gained two cosponsors in Representative Todd Rokita (IN-4)
and Representative Steve Cohen (TN-9), which brings the new cosponsor total to five. If passed into law, H.R. 2212 would increase competition in the prescription drug industry by encouraging generic and biosimilar drug manufacturers to introduce their products to the market more quickly.

TSCL enthusiastically supports S. 915, H.R. 4704, H.R. 2575, and H.R. 2212, and we were pleased to see support grow for each one this week. For more information about these and other bills, visit the Bill Tracking section of our website.