Legislative Update for Week Ending March 2, 2018

Legislative Update for Week Ending March 2, 2018

This week, lawmakers returned to Capitol Hill and two committees held hearings to discuss the opioid epidemic. In addition, The Senior Citizens League (TSCL) saw support grow for several key bills.

Committees Discuss Solutions to Opioid Epidemic

This week, both the House of Representatives and the Senate held hearings concerning the nation’s opioid epidemic. First, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee met on February 27th to discuss the role that technology can play in helping reduce the opioid crisis. HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (TN) cited the statistic that 1 out of 16 patients who are prescribed opioids become chronic users and are more likely to abuse the drugs.

The Chairman rightly pointed out that Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs (PDMPs) and other online drug tracking systems can ensure that patients are only receiving the drugs they need. Senator Michael Bennet (CO) agreed that digital record keeping databases can help limit opioid prescriptions, and cited his new bill that would mandate electronic prescribing for all opioid medications prescribed to Medicare Part D beneficiaries.

Several expert witnesses such as Mr. Sanket Shah, a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, emphasized the role that data analytics can have in proactively identifying patients who may be at risk for ​opioid addiction. Ranking Member Patty Murray (WA) said, “Data has to be easy to use, but hard to misuse,” in reference to the concern that patient privacy also must be protected.

Following the Senate HELP Committee hearing, the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health met on February 28th to discuss how law enforcement and opioid addiction specialists can help combat the epidemic in their communities. Chairman Michael Burgess (TX-26) highlighted several promising bills that could help put a stop to the epidemic. Once such example is H.R. 5041, the Safe Disposal of Unused Medication Act, which would allow hospice workers to dispose of extra opioid medication – an action they are currently prohibited from doing.

Key witnesses such as Mr. Richard Nance, Director of the Utah County Department of Drug and Alcohol Prevention and Treatment, advocated in favor of expanding telemedicine to treat those afflicted with addiction. Other witnesses such as Dr. Andrew Kolodny of Brandeis University warned that doctors need further education on safe opioid prescribing, and that it should not be influenced in any way by parties that benefit from the sale of opioids.

The Senior Citizens League applauds the work and dedication of both of these committees to helping the millions of people affected by opioid addiction – many of whom are older Americans. For frequent updates on the progress of these and other congressional committees, visit our Legislative News ​page every Friday.

Key Bills Gain Support

This week, TSCL saw support grow for three bills in the House and one bill in the Senate. First, two new cosponsors signed on to the bipartisan CREATES Act of 2017 (H.R. 2212), bringing the total up to nine. The new cosponsors are Representative Carol Shea-Porter (NH-1) and Representative Francis Rooney (FL-19). If signed into law, the bill would increase competition in the prescription drug industry by encouraging generic and biosimilar drug manufacturers to introduce their products to the market more quickly.

Second, Concentrating on High-value Alzheimer's Needs to Get to an End (CHANGE) Act of 2018 (S. 2387)​ gained one new cosponsor this week in Senator Chris Van Hollen (MD). The cosponsor total is now up to four. If adopted, S. 2387 would direct the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to create programs that would promote early identification of Alzheimer’s disease, improve support for family caregivers, and provide continuous care for those battling many forms of dementia.

Third, the Social Security Fairness Act of 2017 (H.R. 1205) gained two new cosponsors in Representative Bill Posey (FL-8) and Suzanne Bonamici (OR-1), bringing the cosponsor total to 176. If signed into law, H.R. 1205 would repeal the Government Pension Offset (GPO) and Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) – two provisions that unfairly reduce the earned Social Security benefits of millions of teachers, police officers, and other public servants each year.

Finally, the Social Security 2100 Act (H.R. 1902) gained six new cosponsors this week, bringing the cosponsor total up to 170. The new cosponsors are Representative David Price (NC-4), Representative Adam Schiff (CA-28), Representative Rick Larsen (WA-2), Representative Carolyn Maloney (NY-12), Representative Darren Soto (FL-9), and Representative Anthony Brown (MD-4). If enacted, H.R. 1902 would strengthen and expand the Social Security program responsibly, without cutting benefits.

The Senior Citizens League thanks the new cosponsors of H.R. 2212, S. 2387, H.R. 1205, and H.R. 1902. For more information about these and other bills that would improve the lives of older Americans, visit the Bill Tracking section of our website.