Legislative Update for Week Ending June 22, 2018

Legislative Update for Week Ending June 22, 2018

This week, the House Budget Committee advanced a budget resolution that would reform the Medicare program, and the Senate Aging Committee met to discuss the trajectory of Alzheimer’s disease. In addition, three key bills gained support in Congress.

House Budget Committee Approves Fiscal 2019 Blueprint

This week, following a two-day markup, the House Budget Committee advanced a fiscal 2019 budget resolution that would dramatically impact Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid if adopted. The “Budget for a Brighter American Future” includes $8 trillion in spending cuts, and it would balance the budget in nine years.

The plan would comprehensively reform Medicare by transforming it into a “premium support” program, where seniors would be given vouchers by the federal government to purchase private health insurance coverage on a federal exchange. Experts predict that “premium support” models like the one laid out in the “Budget for a Brighter American Future” would result in substantially higher out-of-pocket costs for Medicare beneficiaries over time.

The blueprint also calls for $4 billion in Social Security cuts, and it would fully repeal the Affordable Care Act and replace it with the House-passed American Health Care Act. That change would leave millions of older Americans not yet eligible for Medicare without health insurance coverage due to high costs. It would also impact around 11 million Medicare beneficiaries who are also enrolled in the Medicaid program – many of whom are patients in costly nursing home facilities.

The Senior Citizens League opposes the plan that was advanced by the Budget Committee this week since it would lead to increased costs for Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries, and it would cut benefits for Social Security recipients. Instead, we support legislation like the Social Security 2100 Act (H.R. 1902) and the Improving Access to Affordable Prescription Drugs Act (H.R. 1776), which would strengthen and reform the Social Security and Medicare programs responsibly, without cutting benefits for current or future retirees.

At this point in time, it remains unclear whether congressional leaders will bring the “Budget for a Brighter American Future” to the floor for a vote, but the resolution does clearly outline the policy priorities of the majority party in the House. The Senior Citizens League will keep a close eye on the movement of the budget resolution in the weeks ahead, and we will continue to voice our opposition to policies that would jeopardize the health and financial security of older Americans. For progress updates, follow TSCL on Twitter or visit the Legislative News section of our website.

Senate Aging Committee Discusses Alzheimer’s Disease

On Tuesday, the Senate Special Aging Committee held a hearing titled “Changing the Trajectory of Alzheimer’s: Reducing Risk, Detecting Early Symptoms, and Improving Data.” Those on the Aging Committee heard from experts as well as individuals who have personal experience with the disease, including award-winning actor Marcia Gay Harden.

According to Aging Committee Chairman Susan Collins (ME), 5.7 million Americans are currently living with Alzheimer’s disease, and it is the sixth leading cause of death. In her opening statement, Chairman Collins said: “If we continue along this trajectory, Alzheimer’s is projected to claim the minds of nearly 14 million seniors and surpass $1 trillion in costs by 2050.”

At Tuesday’s hearing, lawmakers on the Aging Committee and those who testified advocated for the passage of the bipartisan Building Our Largest Dementia (BOLD) Infrastructure for Alzheimer’s Act (S. 2076), which was recently introduced by Chairman Collins and currently has the support of forty Senate cosponsors. If adopted, the bill would create the public health infrastructure that is needed to promote early detection, coordinate care, support caregivers, and combat Alzheimer’s disease.

Chairman Collins said at Tuesday’s hearing: “Alzheimer’s is not a normal part of aging. It is a public health issue with a course that we can potentially change. There are steps that we can take today to help prevent the risk of cognitive decline and to improve the lives of those living with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers. This public health approach is not only empowering; it is the key to saving lives.”

The Senior Citizens League appreciates the hard work and leadership of Chairman Collins on this important issue, and we hope to see the BOLD Act (S. 2076) signed into law before the end of this year. For more information, visit the Bill Tracking section of our website.

Three Key Bills Gain Support

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 – Representative Debbie Dingell (MI-12) – signed on to the bipartisan Consumer Price Index for Elderly Consumers (CPI-E) Act (H.R. 1251), bringing the total up to fifty-one. If adopted, the bill would base Social Security cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) on the more fair and adequate CPI-E. Currently, COLAs are based on the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners (CPI-W), and they fail to keep pace with the inflation experienced by older Americans.

Second, one new cosponsor – Senator Debbie Stabenow (MI) – signed on to the bipartisan Beneficiary Enrollment Notification and Eligibility Simplification (BENES) Act (S. 1909), bringing the cosponsor total up to three. If adopted, S. 1909 would simplify and modernize the complex Medicare enrollment process.

Third, three new cosponsors – Representative John Garamendi (CA-3), Representative Jim McGovern (MA-2), and Representative Judy Chu (CA-27) – signed on as cosponsors to the bipartisan Nursing Home CARE Act (H.R. 4704), bringing the total up to twenty-two. If adopted, the bill would protect Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries by more quickly codifying emergency preparedness rules for nursing home facilities that receive funding from the federal government.

The Senior Citizens League enthusiastically supports H.R. 1251, S. 1909, and H.R. 4704, and we will continue to advocate for their passage in the months ahead. For more information, visit the Bill Tracking section of our website.