Legislative Update for Week Ending July 20, 2018

Legislative Update for Week Ending July 20, 2018

This week, one House Subcommittee met to discuss fraud, waste, and abuse in the Medicare program, and The Senior Citizens League (TSCL) saw support grow for three key bills that would strengthen and improve the Social Security and Medicare programs.

House Subcommittee Discusses Medicare Fraud

On Tuesday, the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Oversight held a hearing titled “Combating Fraud in Medicare: A Strategy for Success.” Lawmakers on the subcommittee heard from three expert witnesses: Seto Bagdoyan (Director of Forensic Audits & Investigative Service at the Government Accountability Office), Gloria Jarmon (Deputy Inspector General for Audit Services at the Office of Inspector General), and Alec Alexander (Director of the Center for Program Integrity at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services).

Those at Tuesday’s hearing focused on the need to ramp up anti-fraud efforts in the Medicare program. In her opening statement, Chairman Lynn Jenkins (KS-2) said: “In 2017 alone, improper payments accounted for nearly $52 billion dollars of Medicare spending … As it stands now, there’s no comprehensive risk-based strategy for combating fraud in Medicare. Without a strategy in place, it is very difficult to address fraud.”

According to Mr. Alexander, the Medicare program is currently taking several steps to reduce fraud – including removing Social Security numbers from Medicare cards – and the improper payment rate has seen improvement in recent years. However, more work remains. Ms. Jarmon said at Tuesday’s hearing: “I think [the error rate] went from 11 percent in 2016 to 9.5 percent in 2017, but there’s still a lot of Medicare fraud out there … We’ve made some progress but there is still a whole lot that needs to be done with the better use of data analytics and information.”

The Senior Citizens League agrees, and we hope Congress and the administration will take action to ensure that Medicare dollars are being spent properly. It is well understood that the failure to manage fraud results in higher premiums for Medicare beneficiaries and higher taxes for all Americans. By increasing efforts to fight fraud, Medicare could save tens of billions of dollars each year and reduce the need for reforms that could negatively impact beneficiaries.

TSCL’s legislative team will be monitoring ongoing efforts to reduce Medicare fraud in the months ahead, and we will continue to advocate for legislation that would improve oversight. As Chairman Jenkins said at Tuesday’s hearing, “Every dollar lost to fraud is a dollar that could be spent on patients.” For progress updates on efforts to combat Medicare fraud, follow TSCL on Twitter or visit the Legislative News section of our website.

Three Key Bills Gain Support in House and Senate

This week, The Senior Citizens League was pleased to see support grow for three key bills that would improve the Social Security and Medicare programs.

First, one new cosponsor – Congressman Adam Smith (WA-9) – signed on to the Seniors Have Eyes, Ears, and Teeth Act (H.R. 508), bringing the total up to 131. If adopted, this bipartisan bill would expand Medicare coverage to include routine vision, hearing, and dental care. Under current law, Medicare is prohibited from covering most of these critical services, and many older Americans cannot afford to pay out-of-pocket for costly care and assistive technologies like eyeglasses or hearing aids. When left untreated, age-related hearing loss, low vision, and poor oral health often cause serious health complications and injuries.

Second, one new cosponsor – Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici (OR-1) – signed on to the Medicare Drug Price Negotiation Act (H.R. 4138), bringing the total up to nineteen. This bill, if adopted, would allow the federal government to negotiate lower prescription drug prices on behalf of Medicare Part D beneficiaries.

Finally, one new cosponsor – Senator Cory Booker (NJ) – signed on in support of the Social Security Expansion Act (S. 427), bringing the total up to four. If adopted, S. 427 would enhance Social Security benefits by basing cost-of-living adjustments on the Consumer Price Index for the Elderly (CPI-E), increasing monthly benefits by $65 per month, and improving the Special Minimum Benefit. It would also strengthen the program’s solvency by applying the payroll tax to income over $250,000 and applying a 6.2 percent tax on investment income for wealthy individuals.

The Senior Citizens League enthusiastically supports H.R. 508, H.R. 4138, and S. 427, and we will continue to advocate for their passage in the months ahead. For more information, visit the Bill Tracking section of our website.