Legislative Update for Week Ending February 8, 2019

Legislative Update for Week Ending February 8, 2019

This week, President Donald Trump delivered his third State of the Union Address and the House Ways and Means Committee met to discuss retirement security in America.

President Trump Delivers State of the Union

On Tuesday evening, President Trump delivered his third State of the Union Address before both chambers of Congress. The address largely focused on the economy, immigration, trade, and foreign affairs. Critical programs like Social Security and Medicare went unmentioned in the ninety-minute address, but The Senior Citizens League was pleased to hear President Trump speak about the skyrocketing prices of prescription drugs.

He said: “The next major priority for me, and for all of us, should be to lower the cost of health care and prescription drugs … We must do more. It is unacceptable that Americans pay vastly more than people in other countries for the exact same drugs, often made in the exact same place. This is wrong, unfair, and together we can stop it.” President Trump urged lawmakers to work together in a bipartisan effort to address “global freeloading” and to improve price transparency in the pharmaceutical industry. The Senior Citizens League is hopeful that the new Congress will consider these and other plans to bring down prescription drug prices this year.

In addition, we hope Congress and President Trump will sign into law three prescription drug bills endorsed by The Senior Citizens League that have already won bipartisan support in the 116th Congress. The Medicare Prescription Drug Price Negotiation Act (H.R. 275), which was introduced by Congressmen Peter Welch (VT) and Francis Rooney (FL-19), would require the federal government to negotiate lower Medicare Part D prices on behalf of Medicare beneficiaries.

The Safe and Affordable Drugs from Canada Act (S. 61), which was introduced by Senators Chuck Grassley (IA) and Amy Klobuchar (MN), would bring down costs by allowing individuals to safely import prescriptions from approved pharmacies in Canada. And finally, the Preserve Access to Affordable Generics and Biosimilars Act (S. 64), which was also introduced by Senators Grassley and Klobuchar, would prohibit anti-competitive pay-for-delay deals that keep much cheaper generic and bio-similar medicines off the market.

These bipartisan bills, if adopted, would reduce prescription drug prices for seniors and others who rely on lifesaving medicines, and they would increase competition in the pharmaceutical industry. We urge lawmakers and President Trump to sign them into law before the end of this year. For progress updates on these and other bills that have been backed by The Senior Citizens League, follow us on Twitter or visit the Legislative News section of our website.

Committee Holds Retirement Security Hearing

On Wednesday, the House Committee on Ways and Means held a hearing titled “Improving Retirement Security for America’s Workers.” Lawmakers on the committee heard from several expert witnesses, including Diane Oakley – Executive Director at the National Institute on Retirement Security – and Nancy Altman – President of Social Security Works.

At Wednesday’s hearing, several lawmakers, including Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (MA-1), focused on policy initiatives that would encourage working Americans to save more for retirement. In his opening statement, he said: “Nearly half of American private sector employees – roughly 55 million – work for an employer that does not offer a retirement plan … Increasing opportunities for employees to save through a plan at work could make a huge difference for families.” Helping small businesses sponsor retirement plans or requiring employers to offer 401(k) plans to their employees are two policy options that lawmakers discussed on Wednesday.

Lawmakers at Wednesday’s hearing also focused on the need to strengthen the Social Security program. Congressman John Larson (CT-1) – Chairman of the Social Security Subcommittee – spoke about the Social Security 2100 Act (H.R. 860), which he introduced last week with the support of more than two hundred cosponsors.

If adopted, his bill would boost Social Security benefits and strengthen the financing of the program through the year 2100 and beyond. At the hearing, Congressman Larson said: “Social Security will continue to be solvent as long as Congress does its job. The last time Congress did anything to Social Security in a meaningful way was in 1983.”

The Senior Citizens League agrees that Congress must act this year to restore the program’s solvency so that any necessary changes can be phased in gradually and with minimal impact on beneficiaries. We have proudly endorsed Congressman Larson’s Social Security 2100 Act since it would reform the program responsibly – without cutting benefits for seniors or disabled Americans – and we will continue to advocate for it on Capitol Hill in the months ahead.

For progress updates on the Social Security 2100 Act or to stay updated on congressional efforts to improve retirement security, follow The Senior Citizens League on Twitter or visit the Bill Tracking section of our website.