Legislative Update for Week Ending June 23, 2017

Legislative Update for Week Ending June 23, 2017

This week, Senate Republicans released their highly anticipated bill that will repeal and replace parts of the Affordable Care Act. In addition, The Senior Citizens League (TSCL) endorsed legislation that will improve the Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA).

Senate Majority Releases Health Bill

On Thursday, Republican leaders in the Senate released the text of highly anticipated legislation that will repeal and replace parts of the ACA. The bill, called the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017 (BCRA), was crafted behind closed doors, and even those who were charged with writing the bill were frustrated by the secretive process.

Senator Mike Lee (UT) – one of thirteen Senators involved in the process – said early this week: “Even though we thought we were going to be in charge of writing a bill within this working group, it’s not being written by us. It’s apparently being written by a small handful of staffers for members of the Republican leadership in the Senate. So, if you’re frustrated by the lack of transparency in this process, I share your frustration. I share it wholeheartedly.”

Like the House-passed American Health Care Act (AHCA), the BCRA includes provisions that would cut billions of dollars from the Medicaid program – which helps fund long-term care for one in five Medicare beneficiaries – and it would cap federal spending on it, ending the Medicaid program as we now know it. The BCRA would also make health insurance unaffordable for millions of older Americans under the age of sixty-five by allowing health insurers to charge older folks up to five times more for their coverage, and it would create an immediate funding crisis for the Medicare program by eliminating a key source of revenue.

In a news conference earlier this week, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (NY) said, “There’s no doubt that if this bill actually passes and becomes law, Americans over the age of 50 will be the worst off.”

TSCL shares the concerns of Senator Gillibrand, and our legislative team will be keeping a very close eye on the movement of the BCRA in the days ahead. The bill is expected to receive a score from the Congressional Budget Office by Monday, and lawmakers in the Senate will likely vote on it before adjourning for the July 4th holiday recess on Friday, June 30th. Since Vice President Mike Pence could cast a tie-breaking vote if needed, the bill will need only fifty votes to win passage.

In the critical days ahead, TSCL encourages its members and supporters to contact their Senators to request their opposition to the BCRA, since it would undermine the health and financial security of millions of older Americans. To find contact information for your Senators, click here. For updates on the BCRA’s movement, follow TSCL on Twitter or visit the Legislative News section of our website.

TSCL Endorses Emergency COLA Legislation

This week, TSCL announced its support for new legislation from Congressman Rick Nolan (MN-8) called the Fair COLA for Seniors Act of 2017 (H.R. 2896). The bill – if signed into law – would improve the Social Security COLA in two key ways. It would give beneficiaries a mid-year 3.9 percent COLA in 2017 to make up for this year’s inadequate increase, and it would base future Social Security COLAs on a more accurate inflation index called the Consumer Price Index for Elderly Consumers (CPI-E).

Currently, Social Security COLAs are based on the way young, urban workers spend their money using the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners (CPI-W). That inflation index underestimates the inflation retirees experience since it weighs items like gasoline and electronics more heavily than it weighs medical expenses and prescription drug costs. This year, Social Security beneficiaries are receiving a 0.3 percent COLA, but if it were based on the more accurate CPI-E, they would be receiving a 2.1 percent COLA according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In a letter of support to Congressman Nolan, Art Cooper – the Chairman of TSCL’s Board of Trustees – wrote: “Years of record-low COLAs like this one – plus multiple years of zero COLAs – will have a devastating impact on the long-term adequacy of Social Security benefits for more than 59 million beneficiaries. As such, The Senior Citizens League lends its enthusiastic support and the support of its membership to the Fair COLA for Seniors Act of 2017 … Your bill would go a long way in ensuring the retirement security older Americans have earned and deserve.”

TSCL looks forward to working with Congressman Nolan in the months ahead to help build support for his important new Social Security bill, and we hope to see it signed into law before the end of this year. For updates on the bill’s progress or to learn more about it, visit the Bill Tracking section of our website.