Legislative Update for Week Ending June 10, 2016

Legislative Update for Week Ending June 10, 2016

This week, the House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee met with dozens of lawmakers to discuss legislation that would improve and sustain the Medicare program.

House Subcommittee Discusses Medicare Improvements

On Wednesday, the Ways and Means Health Subcommittee held a hearing titled “Legislation to Improve and Sustain the Medicare Program.” Members of the Subcommittee heard from three panels of lawmakers who are leading several different efforts to reform or update the program. Representatives Robert Dold (IL-10), Charles Boustany (LA-3), John Larson (CT-1), Chris Smith (NJ-4), Peter Roskam (IL-6), and Alex Mooney (VA-2) were among those who testified at Wednesday’s hearing.

In his opening statement, Subcommittee Chairman Pat Tiberi (OH-12) explained, “This subcommittee is providing a public platform for any and all interested Members of Congress to discuss bills they have introduced that modify the way heath care is accessed and delivered to the more than 55 million seniors who rely on the Medicare program.” He continued, saying: “Members have put a lot of work into developing and drafting these pieces of legislation. And this Member Day hearing is their opportunity to share with their colleagues – and the American people – why these bills are important and why this committee should take them up.”

More than a dozen Members of Congress spoke about their plans to update the Medicare program at Wednesday’s hearing. Representative Peter Roskam (IL-6) spoke about legislation called the Medicare Common Access Card Act (H.R. 3220) that would give Medicare beneficiaries new cards utilizing chip technology with the goal of reducing erroneous payments within the program. According to Rep. Roskam, 22 percent of healthcare fraud cases could be prevented with the use of “smart cards.” His bipartisan bill would create a pilot program to test and evaluate the technology.

In addition, Representative John Larson (CT-1) outlined new legislation called the Medicare Dental, Vision, and Hearing Benefit Act (H.R. 5396) that would expand the Medicare program by including coverage for dental, vision, and hearing care. His legislation would place “reasonable limitations on coverage” and it would be “phased in gradually.” At the hearing, he said: “All too often at this committee our policy discussions focus on how much we can cut from Medicare, and how to further shift the cost onto beneficiaries. In the process, we fail to recognize the possibilities before us and the enormous power we wield.”

TSCL believes several of the bills mentioned at Wednesday’s hearing have enormous potential to improve and modernize the Medicare program. In the weeks ahead, our legislative team will be analyzing and evaluating those that would strengthen the solvency of Medicare while protecting beneficiaries from increased cost-sharing or cuts to benefits. For updates on Medicare legislation, follow us on Twitter.