Legislative Update for Week Ending March 10, 2017

Legislative Update for Week Ending March 10, 2017

This week, after months of discussions, leaders in the majority party revealed legislation to replace the Affordable Care Act. In addition, in a Wednesday meeting with President Donald Trump, two lawmakers proposed a plan to reduce prescription drug costs for Medicare beneficiaries.

House Leaders Propose ACA Replacement

On Monday, lawmakers in the House revealed the American Health Care Act (AHCA), which would replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA) if signed into law. Just two days later – before the Congressional Budget Office had a chance to evaluate the proposal – Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee and the House Energy and Commerce Committee voted to advance the proposal.

The new bill would reform the health care system in several ways if adopted. It would remove the ACA's individual and employer mandates, modify tax credits so they would be based on age instead of income, create a new penalty for individuals who do not maintain continuous health insurance coverage, and allow health insurers to charge older Americans five times more than they charge younger folks for their coverage, making health insurance unaffordable for millions of seniors who are not yet eligible for Medicare.

In addition, the AHCA would repeal a tax created by the ACA that serves as a critical funding stream for Medicare's Hospital Insurance Trust Fund. Cutting the tax would accelerate the insolvency of the Medicare Part A Trust Fund, and in a matter of a few years, it would become exhausted. In a Washington Post opinion piece, former Acting Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Andy Slavitt wrote, “That’s clearly no accident: The program would wind up right where ‘entitlement hawks’ such as House Speaker Paul D Ryan (R-Wis.) want it – in crisis. If this bill became law, the speaker would finally be positioned to change Medicare to a voucher program.”

TSCL has serious concerns about several of the provisions in the AHCA, including the tax cut that would endanger the Medicare program. As discussions continue to advance the bill, The Senior Citizens League (TSCL) will continue to monitor them, and we will advocate on Capitol Hill for policies that would protect the Medicare Trust Fund while reducing out-of-pocket costs for older Americans. For progress updates, follow TSCL on Facebook or Twitter.

Lawmakers Discuss Drug Costs with President Trump

On Wednesday, Congressmen Elijah Cummings (MD-7) and Peter Welch (VT) met with President Donald Trump to discuss the state of the prescription drug industry. At the meeting, they requested President Trump’s support for TSCL-backed legislation called the Medicare Prescription Drug Price Negotiation Act (H.R. 242, S. 41), which would require the federal government to negotiate lower drug prices on behalf of Medicare Part D beneficiaries. Currently, Medicare is prohibited from doing so despite the fact that other federal health programs are required to.

Following the meeting at the White House, Congressman Welch told reporters: “It simply makes no sense for Medicare to buy wholesale and pay retail prices. As a businessman, President Trump understands that. I hope he helps us enact our legislation to provide urgently needed relief to consumers and taxpayers.” In addition, Congressman Cummings said, “We had a productive meeting today … The President committed to reviewing our proposal, and he seemed enthusiastic about the idea.”

TSCL is hopeful that President Trump will lend his support to the Medicare Prescription Drug Price Negotiation Act, since we believe it would go a long way in reducing the costs of lifesaving medications for beneficiaries. We will continue to advocate for it on Capitol Hill, and we hope to see it signed into law before the end of the 115th Congress. For more information, visit the Bill Tracking section of our website.