Legislative Update for Week Ending June 5, 2015

Legislative Update for Week Ending June 5, 2015

This week, the Ways and Means Committee advanced a bill that would repeal the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA’s) Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), and The Senior Citizens League (TSCL) saw one key bills gain support.

House Committee Advances IPAB Repeal

On Tuesday, with a vote of 31-8, the House Ways and Means Committee voted to advance the Protecting Seniors’ Access to Medicare Act (H.R. 1190) – a bill that TSCL supports enthusiastically. H.R. 1190, if signed into law, would repeal the controversial Medicare cost-cutting board that was created by the ACA back in 2010.

Here’s how the board works: As soon as Medicare spending exceeds certain growth rates, the unelected 15-member board will begin making recommendations to lawmakers to rein in spending. Congress will then have a chance to respond by passing cost-cutting measures of its own. But if they fail to adopt legislation, the IPAB’s recommendations will be automatically implemented.

Due to record-low growth in health care costs, the board hasn’t been triggered to begin making recommendations to Congress yet, and it currently has no appointed members. Nonetheless, many lawmakers feel that such critical policy-making decisions should be left solely in the hands of elected representatives, and they hope to repeal it long before it is needed.

At Tuesday’s committee meeting, Ways and Means Chairman Paul Ryan (WI-1) referred to the board as “unelected bureaucrats that could cut Medicare’s payments to doctors and essentially ration care.” TSCL shares these concerns about the IPAB – we fear its recommendations could result in increased costs for beneficiaries or decreased access to quality medical care.

Our legislative team was pleased to see the Protecting Seniors’ Access to Medicare Act advance out of the Ways and Means Committee this week, and we will be sure to monitor its progress as it moves to the House floor. Leaders expect it to be taken up during the week of June 15th, and it is expected to pass there with bipartisan support as well. For updates on the status of H.R. 1190, visit the Legislative News section of our website.

Key Bill Gains Support

This week, one new cosponsor – Rep. Zoe Lofgren (CA-19) – signed on to Rep. Grace Meng’s (NY-6) Notch Fairness Act (H.R. 314), bringing the total up to twelve. If signed into law, H.R. 314 would provide modest compensation to victims of the Social Security Notch, or those who were born between 1917 and 1926.

Just years before they were set to retire, these individuals learned that they would receive significantly lower benefits than originally anticipated. The problem has grown and compounded over time, and TSCL believes that in order to make the program more equitable, some compensation for the injustice should be provided. We enthusiastically support Rep. Meng’s Notch Fairness Act, and we were pleased to see one new cosponsor sign on this week.