This week, the 116th Congress convened in Washington and The Senior Citizens League (TSCL) continued shaping its legislative agenda for the year ahead. Meanwhile, the federal government remained partially closed with no deal in sight.
116th Congress Convenes in Washington
On Thursday, new and veteran lawmakers in the House and Senate were sworn in to office and the 116th Congress convened. The new split-party Congress will face many challenges in the days ahead, including re-opening the federal government. However, The Senior Citizens League looks forward to working with those on both sides of the aisle to build momentum for legislation that would strengthen retirement security for older Americans.
The following policy issues – among many others – will be at the top of The Senior Citizens League’s legislative agenda in the months ahead…
- Strengthening the Social Security program. The Social Security program currently faces a significant but manageable funding shortfall, and we are hopeful that lawmakers will act this year to return the trust funds to 75-year solvency. In the new Congress, we will advocate for comprehensive legislation like the Social Security 2100 Act, which would strengthen the program responsibly, without cutting benefits for retirees.
- Improving the Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA). According to The Senior Citizens League’s research, Social Security benefits have lost 34 percent of their purchasing power since 2000 due in large part to inadequate COLAs and rising health care costs. In 2019, we are committed to advocating tirelessly for legislation that would base the Social Security COLA on an inflation index specifically for seniors. We will also continue to urge Congress to pass legislation that would boost benefits to help compensate for years of excessively low COLAs.
- Reducing prescription drug prices. In a recent survey of TSCL’s members, as many as one-third of respondents said they postponed filling their prescriptions or took less than prescribed due to high costs. In the 116th Congress, we will pressure Congress to take common-sense steps – like allowing the government to negotiate lower Part D prices, capping out-of-pocket expenses for seniors, permitting re-importation, and increasing price transparency – to reduce prescription drug prices.
- Improving coverage for dental, vision, and hearing services. Millions of older Americans are afflicted with age-related hearing loss, low vision, and poor oral health. Yet under current law, Medicare is prohibited from covering most hearing, vision, and dental services. When left untreated, these conditions often cause serious health complications and injuries. But when treated successfully, the result is improved overall health and lower costs for Medicare and patients. In the new Congress, we will continue to advocate for the Seniors Have Eyes, Ears, and Teeth Act – a bill that would expand Medicare coverage to include these essential health services.
Which major issue facing older Americans do you think the new Congress should prioritize this year? Cast your vote in our new poll, which you can find on the right side of our homepage. To stay updated on The Senior Citizens League’s advocacy efforts in the 116th Congress, follow us on Twitter or visit the Legislative News section of our website every Friday morning.
Federal Government Shutdown Continues
While talks between congressional leaders and President Donald Trump continued this week, the federal government remained partially closed. However, Social Security and Medicare beneficiaries should rest assured that their benefits will not be impacted by the ongoing government shutdown.
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 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 administrative offices 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.