Legislative Update for Week Ending October 27, 2017

Legislative Update for Week Ending October 27, 2017

This week, lawmakers in the House adopted the Senate-passed fiscal 2018 budget resolution, and one committee met to discuss the challenges of aging with disabilities. In addition, The Senior Citizens League (TSCL) endorsed three new bills and one key piece of legislation gained new cosponsors.

House Passes Budget, Shifts Focus to Tax Reform

On Thursday, with a vote of 216-212, lawmakers in the House voted to advance the Senate-passed fiscal 2018 budget resolution. The budget blueprint will add $1.5 trillion to the federal deficit, and it calls for nearly $500 billion in unspecified cuts to Medicare, along with $1 trillion in cuts to Medicaid, which covers the cost of long-term care for millions of older Americans.

The budget resolution also paves the way for tax reform to pass through a fast-track process with a simple majority in the Senate. Lawmakers on the House Ways and Means Committee plan to release the text of their tax bill as early as next Wednesday – November 1st – and they hope to vote it out of the committee the following week. Congressional leaders have said their goal is to pass the comprehensive tax bill before the end of this year, and so far, they seem to be on track.

In the weeks ahead, TSCL will be monitoring the movement of the tax bill closely, since lawmakers are expected to offset tax cuts for the wealthiest with changes to 401(k) retirement savings plans. TSCL will advocate against policies that would hurt the financial security of retirees in the coming weeks, and you can view our updates on Twitter or visit the Legislative News section of our website.

Senate Committee Discusses Aging

 On Wednesday, the Senate Special Committee on Aging held a hearing titled “Working and Aging with Disabilities: From School to Retirement” to discuss the unique challenges disabled individuals face when trying to find employment. October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) and it is important to remember that only one-third of disabled Americans are employed, even though a much larger percentage would like to hold a job.

Aging while disabled can prove to be an even greater challenge than finding employment because as many family caregivers age, they may not be able to provide support to their disabled loved ones. Since disabled individuals may not have worked consistently or they may have worked in low-wage jobs, their retirements are often less financially secure.

Ranking Member Susan Collins (ME) said at Wednesday’s hearing, “Older Americans with disabilities share the same hopes and aspirations of the average senior, and we must work to ensure to make sure their distinctive needs are met as they grow older.”

One expert witness at the hearing – Dr. David Michael Mank of Indiana University – agreed with Senator Collins and said: “We need to look at individualized retirement options that take into account helping to support people in decision making, helping them plan for the future, and looking at ways to have meaningful lives in inclusive communities.”

TSCL agrees with Senator Collins and Dr. Mank, and we believe more must be done to tackle the unique challenges disabled Americans face as they age. To learn more about the Aging Committee’s work on this important topic, watch Wednesday’s hearing here.

TSCL Endorses Three New Bills

 TSCL is excited to announce our endorsement of three new bills aimed at helping older Americans: the Beneficiary Enrollment Notification and Eligibility Simplification (BENES) Act, the Seniors’ Security Act, and the Medicare Drug Price Negotiation Act.

The BENES Act (S. 1909, H.R. 2575), if signed into law, would improve education efforts for those nearing Medicare eligibility. It would require the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to notify older Americans of their upcoming eligibility and the enrollment requirements, and it would also simplify the Medicare enrollment process. The BENES Act has bipartisan support, and it was introduced by Senator Robert Casey (PA) and Congressman Raul Ruiz (CA-36) along with several cosponsors.

The second bill – the Seniors’ Security Act (H.R. 4076) – would dramatically improve the Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) by basing it on the Consumer Price Index for Elderly Consumers (CPI-E), a more accurate measure of inflation for retirees. It would also protect the purchasing power of Social Security benefits by ensuring that Medicare Part B premiums never take more than 30 percent of an annual COLA. The Seniors’ Security Act was introduced in the House by Congressman Donald Norcross (NJ-1), and TSCL believes it will go a long way in protecting the retirement security of older Americans.

Finally, the Medicare Drug Price Negotiation Act (S. 2011, H.R. 4138) would require the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services to negotiate lower prices for Medicare Part D prescription drugs, if signed into law. The bill – which has the support of several cosponsors in the House and Senate – was introduced on Thursday by Senator Bernard Sanders (VT), Congressman Elijah Cummings (MD-7), Congressman Peter Welch (VT-1), and Congressman Lloyd Doggett (TX-35).

TSCL enthusiastically supports the BENES Act, the Seniors’ Security Act, and the Medicare Drug Price Negotiation Act, and we look forward to working the sponsors of the bills in the months ahead to build support for them. For more information, visit the Bill Tracking section of our website.

Key Bill Gains Support

This week, one key piece of legislation – the Improving Access to Affordable Prescription Drugs Act (H.R. 1776) – gained two new cosponsors: Congressman Tim Ryan (OH-13) and Congressman Peter DeFazio (OR-4). The cosponsor total is now up to nineteen.

If adopted, H.R. 1776 would improve access to affordable prescription drugs by requiring the federal government to negotiate prices, allowing the importation of drugs from Canada, accelerating the closing of the Part D doughnut hole, and capping monthly prescription drug expenses at $250, among other things.

TSCL was excited to see support grow for H.R. 1776 this week, and we will continue to work with the bill’s sponsor – Congresswoman Janice Schakowsky (IL-9) – to build additional support for it. For more information, visit the Bill Tracking section of our website.