Legislative Update for Week Ending May 11, 2018

Legislative Update for Week Ending May 11, 2018

This week, The Senior Citizens League (TSCL) delivered letters to Congress asking lawmakers to improve Medicare coverage for essential health services. In addition, the House Budget Committee met to discuss the fiscal 2019 budget resolution, and two key bills gained cosponsors.

TSCL Advocates for Improved Medicare Coverage

This week, TSCL delivered letters to Congress asking lawmakers to support two bills that would improve Medicare coverage for hearing, vision, and dental services. Under current law, the Medicare program is prohibited from covering most of these critical services, and many older Americans cannot afford to pay out-of-pocket for costly care and assistive technologies like eyeglasses or hearing aids.

When left untreated, age-related hearing loss, low vision, and poor oral health often cause serious health complications and injuries. But when treated successfully, the result is improved overall health and lower costs for Medicare and patients.

For example, Mary Johnson of Barboursville, VA recently told us she suffered for years with severe chronic pulmonary and gastric infections. After periodontitis was discovered and treated with oral surgery last year, her chronic cough and inflammatory symptoms cleared up completely. Since then, she has successfully gone without inhalers and frequent visits to her primary care physician, gastroenterologist, and pulmonologist, saving Medicare thousands of dollars.

In the letter that was delivered to Congress this week, Art Cooper, Chairman of The Senior Citizens League’s Board of Trustees, wrote: “Our supporters nation-wide believe it is essential for older Americans to receive the primary and preventive care that is needed to maintain their dignity and ensure good health in retirement. As such, The Senior Citizens League requests your support for the Audiology Patient Choice Act (H.R. 2276) and the Seniors Have Eyes, Ears, and Teeth Act (H.R. 508). Together, these two bills would go a long way in improving care and reducing costs for older Americans.”

TSCL urged lawmakers to cosponsor these critical bills this week, and we will continue to advocate for them tirelessly in the months ahead. For more information about these and other bills that would improve the Medicare program, visit the Bill Tracking section of our website. For progress updates, follow TSCL on Twitter.

House Budget Committee Discusses Fiscal 2019 Budget

On Thursday, the House Budget Committee held a hearing where lawmakers presented their fiscal 2019 budget proposals. The Senior Citizens League was in attendance at the “Members’ Day” hearing to monitor ongoing discussions about potential cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and other vital programs that contribute to retirement security in America.

At Thursday’s hearing, lawmakers largely focused on state and local infrastructure projects and efforts to strengthen communities. Proposals to reform Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid went unmentioned, except in the brief opening statement of Ranking Member John Yarmuth (KY-3). He stated: “The American people need this Committee to have an honest debate about fiscal challenges. They’re looking to us to protect national and economic security for our nation, retirement benefits, and healthcare access for their families.”

Despite the fact that Social Security and Medicare flew under the radar at this week’s hearing, they were the focus of a budget proposal recently released by the Republican Study Committee – the largest conservative caucus in Congress consisting of more than 150 Members of Congress.

If adopted, their budget blueprint would comprehensively reform Social Security by adopting the Social Security Reform Act. It would increase the eligibility age to 70, cut or eliminate cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) for beneficiaries, and means test Social Security benefits so that wealthier seniors receive lower benefits. TSCL has opposed the adoption of the Social Security Reform Act for years since it would significantly cut benefits for both current and future beneficiaries.

The budget proposal released by the Republican Study Committee would also comprehensively reform Medicare if adopted. It would increase the eligibility age and transform it into a “premium support” program, where older Americans would be given vouchers from the federal government to purchase private health insurance coverage. Additionally, it would fully repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, leaving millions of older Americans not yet eligible for Medicare without health insurance coverage due to high costs.

The Senior Citizens League strongly opposes the budget proposal recently released by the Republican Study Committee since it would reform Social Security and Medicare primarily by cutting benefits for older Americans. In the months ahead, we will continue to monitor the evolving budget negotiations, and we will advocate for legislation that would strengthen and protect these critical programs. For updates on the budget process, follow TSCL on Twitter.

Two Key Bills Gain Support

This week, one new cosponsor – Representative Michael Capuano (MA-7) – signed on to the Social Security Expansion Act (H.R. 1114), bringing the total up to thirty-three. If adopted, the bill would comprehensively reform the Social Security program to strengthen its solvency and improve benefits. Among other things, it would make cost-of-living adjustments more adequate, increase checks by around $65 per month, apply the payroll tax to income above $250,000, and apply a 6.2 percent tax to investment income for wealthy individuals.

In addition, one new cosponsor – Senator Robert Casey (PA) – signed on to the bipartisan Social Security Fairness Act (S. 915), bringing the total up to twenty-four. If adopted, this bill would repeal the Windfall Elimination Provision and the Government Pension Offset – two provisions of the Social Security Act that unfairly reduce the earned benefits of millions of teachers, police officers, and other public servants each year.

The Senior Citizens League enthusiastically supports H.R. 1114 and S. 915, and we were pleased to see support grow for both of them this week. For more information, visit the Bill Tracking section of our website.