Legislative Update for Week Ending January 11, 2019

Legislative Update for Week Ending January 11, 2019

This week, lawmakers failed to reach a deal to end the partial government shutdown, and several key bills that would strengthen retirement security were introduced in the new Congress.

Government Shutdown Continues for Third Week

The partial federal government shutdown continued this week, making it one of the longest government shutdowns in United States history. While talks between congressional leaders and President Donald Trump continued this week, no progress was made towards a bipartisan deal.

Despite the standoff on Capitol Hill, The Senior Citizens League would like Social Security and Medicare beneficiaries to rest assured that their benefits will not be impacted by the shutdown. Both Social Security and Medicare are “mandatory” programs, which means that benefits will go out in full and as scheduled regardless of the federal government’s operating status. In addition, the administrative offices for both programs are fully funded and are currently operating normally, so those applying for benefits should not see any delays in their requests.

Nonetheless, The Senior Citizens League urges lawmakers to act responsibly and to fund the federal government immediately so that federal agencies can operate as smoothly as possible. In the days ahead, we will keep a close eye on the evolving negotiations, and we will continue to advocate for legislative solutions that would fully fund the federal government.

Lawmakers Introduce Four Key Bills

This week, four key bills were introduced in the new Congress. If adopted, each one would improve retirement security in America by strengthening the Social Security or Medicare programs.

First, Representative Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18) introduced the Social Security Safety Dividend Act (H.R. 46). This bill, if adopted, would ensure that seniors, veterans, and disabled Americans receive a $250 payment in years when no Social Security cost-of-living adjustment is payable. These one-time payments would help protect the purchasing power of Social Security benefits in years like 2009, 2010, and 2015, when beneficiaries received no COLA at all.

Second, Representative Rodney Davis (IL-13) introduced the bipartisan Social Security Fairness Act (H.R. 141) with the support of nearly fifty cosponsors. If adopted, his bill would repeal the Government Pension Offset and the Windfall Elimination Provision – two Social Security provisions that cut the benefits of millions of teachers, police officers, and other state or local government employees. The Social Security Fairness Act would ensure that millions of public servants receive the Social Security benefits they have earned and deserve.

Third, Representative Peter Welch (VT) introduced the bipartisan Medicare Prescription Drug Price Negotiation Act (H.R. 275) along with twelve original cosponsors. The bill, if adopted, would require the Secretary of Health and Human Services to negotiate covered Part D drug prices on behalf of Medicare beneficiaries. This common-sense bill would reduce prices and improve access to affordable lifesaving drugs for older Americans.

And finally, Senator Ben Cardin (MD) introduced the Medicare Dental Benefit Act (S. 22), which would provide for coverage of dental services under the Medicare program. Under current law, the Medicare program is prohibited from covering most routine dental services like root canals, extractions, fillings, or even cleanings. When left untreated, dental conditions often cause serious health complications. But when treated successfully, the result is improved overall health and lower costs for Medicare and patients. It is essential for older Americans to receive coverage for routine dental care in order to ensure good health in retirement.

The Senior Citizens League enthusiastically supports the four bills mentioned above, and we look forward to working with their sponsors in the months ahead to help build momentum for their critical legislation. For progress updates on these bills in the 116th Congress, follow The Senior Citizens League on Twitter. To read our legislative agenda for the new Congress, click here.