Legislative Update for Week Ending July 14, 2017

Legislative Update for Week Ending July 14, 2017

This week, Members of Congress returned to Capitol Hill and those in the Senate resumed their work on legislation that would repeal and replace parts of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). In addition, The Senior Citizens League (TSCL) saw two key bills gain support in the House.

Senate ACA Repeal Work Continues

This week, Members of Congress returned to Capitol Hill following a week-long holiday recess, and those in the Senate resumed their work on the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA). Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced on Tuesday that he and his colleagues will delay their next recess and remain in Washington until mid-August to allow more time for the negotiations to evolve. They were expected to adjourn at the end of July for the annual month-long August recess.

Despite the delay, leaders in the Senate are hoping to pass their health reform bill before the end of next week. Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (TX) said on Monday: “I’m for getting our work done now. I don’t think stringing it out any longer than next week helps us with the product … My personal goal is to have it up on the floor ready to vote – have the vote-a-rama – next week.”

Whether or not the BCRA will gain the support it needs to win passage in the Senate remains to be seen. Last week, around ten Republican Senators announced their opposition to the earlier version of the bill, and they can afford to lose only two Republican votes. To build support, leaders are revising the legislative text and are considering adding an amendment from Senator Ted Cruz (TX) that would allow health insurers to offer plans that do not comply with current regulations. That amendment would increase out-of-pocket costs for millions of individuals with pre-existing conditions if adopted.

At the time of writing this week’s update, the revised bill text had not yet been released, but TSCL will be keeping a close eye on the negotiations in the days ahead and we will post updates on Twitter. In the meantime, we encourage our members and supporters to contact their Senators to request their opposition to the BCRA since it would undermine the health and financial security of older Americans if signed into law. For contact information, click HERE.

Key Bills Gain Support in House

This week, two new cosponsors – Congressmen Bill Shuster (PA-9) and Glenn Thompson (PA-5) – signed on to the Social Security Fairness Act (H.R. 1205), bringing the total up to 144. If signed into law, H.R. 1205 would repeal the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) and the Government Pension Offset (GPO) – two provisions of the Social Security Act that cut the earned benefits of millions of teachers, firefighters, police officers, and other public servants each year. Because these individuals receive pensions from their state or local governments, their monthly Social Security checks are arbitrarily reduced, often by one-half or more.

In addition, two new cosponsors – Congressmen Seth Moulton (MA-6) and Dwight Evans (PA-2) – signed on to the Consumer Price Index for Elderly Consumers (CPI-E) Act (H.R. 1251), bringing the total up to thirty-nine. If adopted, H.R. 1251 would base the Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) on a more accurate measure of inflation. Currently, they are based on the way young workers spend their money using the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners (CPI-W). That index consistently underestimates the inflation seniors experience, and since 2000, Social Security benefits have lost 30 percent of their purchasing power due to inaccurate annual COLAs.

TSCL enthusiastically supports H.R. 1205 and H.R. 1251, and we were pleased to see them gain support on Capitol Hill this week. For more information, visit the Bill Tracking section of our website.