Legislative Update for Week Ending May 25, 2018

Legislative Update for Week Ending May 25, 2018

This week, a new report on prescription drug prices found that Medicare beneficiaries are paying more in out-of-pocket costs for their generic drugs than they were several years ago. In addition, lawmakers prepared for a week-long holiday recess on Friday, and four key bills gained cosponsors.

New Report Finds Higher Generic Drug Costs for Seniors

This week, a new report from the health policy consulting firm Avalere Health found that older Americans enrolled in Medicare Part D are paying higher out-of-pocket costs for their generic drugs despite the fact that market prices have remained flat in recent years.

The price increases for seniors have occurred because generic drugs are being placed on higher formulary tiers more often than they were in the past. The report found that in 2011, 71 percent of all generic drugs where placed on the lowest tier, where Part D enrollees pay the least out-of-pocket. By 2015, only 19 percent of all generics were on the lowest tier, while 46 percent were on the second tier, and 35 percent were on tier three or higher.

According to Avalere, this dramatic change from 2011 to 2015 resulted in a 93 percent increase in patient cost-sharing for generic drugs, and Part D beneficiaries paid an additional $6.2 billion for their generic prescriptions over that five-year period. Dan Mendelson – President of Avalere Health – told Bloomberg this week: “What’s happening here is that more cost is shifting to beneficiaries even while the cost of these products is not going up.”

The Senior Citizens League is troubled by the findings of the new Avalere report, and we believe Congress must take action to ensure access to more affordable generic prescription drugs for older Americans. Several bills now before Congress would accomplish this, including the Medicare Prescription Drug Price Negotiation Act, the Improving Access to Affordable Prescription Drugs Act, and the Affordable and Safe Prescription Drug Importation Act.

For more information about these and other bills that would reduce prescription drug costs for Medicare beneficiaries, visit the Bill Tracking section of our website. To read the full report from Avalere Health, click HERE.

Lawmakers Adjourn for Week-Long Holiday Recess

On Friday, lawmakers in the House and Senate adjourned for a week-long Memorial Day recess. They are expected to return to Washington on Tuesday, June 5th. In the meantime, many Members of Congress will be attending local events or hosting town hall meetings in their home states and districts.

The Senior Citizens League encourages its supporters to attend these events and to ask important questions of their elected officials, like the following three...

  1. Social Security beneficiaries received a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) of 2 percent this year, but most are seeing their benefit increases completely offset by higher Medicare Part B premiums. Do you support legislation that would give older Americans a more fair and adequate Social Security COLA?
  2. Most Americans contribute 6.2 percent of every paycheck to Social Security, but due to the payroll tax cap, people earning more than $128,400 contribute nothing over that amount. Eliminating the payroll tax cap would extend the solvency of the program responsibly, without cutting benefits for seniors. Do you agree?
  3. In April, lawmakers on the Republican Study Committee proposed a budget blueprint that would reform the Medicare program and cut Social Security benefits by adopting the “chained” CPI, eliminating the COLA for some seniors, and raising the eligibility age. Did you support this dramatic budget blueprint, and if so, why?

For more information about town hall meetings near you in the week ahead, call the local offices of your Members of Congress. For contact information, click HERE.

Four Key Bills Gain Support

This week, The Senior Citizens League was pleased to see support grow for four key bills.

First, one new cosponsor – Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (NY) – signed on to the Social Security Fairness Act (S. 915). The cosponsor total is now up to twenty-five. If adopted, the Social Security Fairness Act would repeal the Windfall Elimination Provision and the Government Pension Offset – two Social Security provisions that unfairly reduce the earned benefits of millions of teachers, police officers, and other public servants each year.

Second, one new cosponsor also signed on to the RxCAP Act (S. 1347), bringing the total up to five in the Senate. The new cosponsor is Senator Amy Klobuchar (MN). If adopted, S. 1347 would prevent catastrophic spending on prescription drugs for older Americans by eliminating cost-sharing above the Medicare Part D out-of-pocket threshold.

Third, the Improving Access to Affordable Prescription Drugs Act (H.R. 1776) gained one new cosponsor in Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC). The cosponsor total for the bill is now up to twenty-one. If adopted, H.R. 1776 would take several steps to reduce prescription drug costs, including requiring the federal government to negotiate Medicare Part D drug prices, allowing the importation of drugs from Canada, and capping monthly prescription drug expenses at $250.

Finally, two new cosponsors – Senators Debbie Stabenow (MI) and Todd Young (IN) – signed on to the bipartisan CREATES Act (S. 974), bringing the total up to twenty-four. If adopted, the CREATES Act would increase competition in the prescription drug industry by encouraging generic and biosimilar drug manufacturers to introduce their products to the market more quickly.

TSCL enthusiastically supports S. 915, S. 1347, H.R. 1776, and S. 974, and we will continue to advocate for their passage in the months ahead. For more information on these and other bills, visit the Bill Tracking section of our website.