Legislative Update for Week Ending October 5, 2018

Legislative Update for Week Ending October 5, 2018

This week, The Senior Citizens League released its final estimate for the 2019 Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA), and four key bills gained support in Congress.

TSCL Estimates 2019 Social Security COLA

On Thursday, The Senior Citizens League estimated that Social Security beneficiaries will receive a 2.8 percent cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) in 2019, based on consumer price index (CPI) data through August. The official 2019 Social Security COLA will be announced next week – on Thursday, October 11th – following the release of the September CPI data.

A 2.8 percent COLA would be the largest since 2012, but according to The Senior Citizens League’s Social Security Policy Analyst Mary Johnson, “Retirees may be disappointed when they learn what the cost of their Medicare premiums and prescription drugs will be for 2019.”

In June, the Medicare trustees estimated that Part B premiums will rise only $1.50 in 2019, from $134 to $135.50. However, according to a recent survey conducted by The Senior Citizens League, roughly 25 percent of all Medicare beneficiaries are currently paying less than $134 per month due to a special “hold harmless” provision of law. Their Part B premium hikes will be much larger than $1.50, offsetting a larger portion of the 2019 COLA.

The Senior Citizens League believes the inflation index that is currently used to calculate the COLA – the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners (CPI-W) – underestimates the inflation that Social Security beneficiaries experience largely because it fails to account for rising Medicare costs.

To make the Social Security COLA more adequate, The Senior Citizens League believes Congress must adopt the CPI-E Act (H.R. 1251). This bipartisan bill would base Social Security COLAs on the spending patterns of older Americans – not the spending patterns of young, working Americans – using the Consumer Price Index for the Elderly (CPI-E).

The CPI-E regularly puts the spending inflation for seniors at two-tenths of a percentage point higher than the rate at which the CPI-W increases. That may seem like an insignificant amount, but over a twenty-five-year retirement, COLAs do compound significantly. We estimate that a senior who filed for Social Security benefits around thirty years ago would have received nearly $14,000 more in retirement if the CPI-E had been used to calculate COLAs.

In the weeks ahead, The Senior Citizens League will continue to advocate tirelessly for the adoption of the CPI-E Act (H.R. 1251). We will also be keeping a close eye on the 2019 Social Security COLA announcement that is set to occur next Thursday, on October 11th. For updates, follow TSCL on Twitter or visit the Legislative News section of our website.

Four Key Bills Gain Support in Congress

This week, The Senior Citizens League was pleased to see support grow for four key bills that would improve the Social Security and Medicare programs if adopted.

First, one new cosponsor – Representative Greg Walden (OR-2) – signed on to the Social Security Fairness Act (H.R. 1205), bringing the total up to 191. If adopted, the Social Security Fairness Act would repeal the Government Pension Offset (GPO) and the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) – two provisions that unfairly reduce the earned Social Security benefits of millions of teachers, police officers, and other state and local government employees each year.

Second, one new cosponsor also signed on to the Social Security Administration Fairness Act (H.R. 6251), bringing the total up to thirty-five. The new cosponsor is Representative Ron Kind (WI-3). If adopted, H.R. 6251 would improve the administrative funding of the Social Security Administration, implement a moratorium on field office closures, and eliminate two waiting periods for Disability Insurance beneficiaries.

Third, the bipartisan CHANGE Act (H.R. 4957) gained one new cosponsor in Representative Ted Lieu (CA-33), bringing the total up to twenty-two. If adopted, the CHANGE Act would promote early identification of Alzheimer’s disease, improve support for family caregivers, and provide continuous care for those battling many forms of dementia.

Finally, two new cosponsors – Representative Daniel Lipinski (IL-3) and Representative Glenn Grothman (WI-6) – signed on to the CREATES Act (H.R. 2212), bringing the total up to twenty-five. The CREATES Act, if adopted, would increase competition in the prescription drug industry by encouraging generic and biosimilar drug manufacturers to introduce their products to the market more quickly.

The Senior Citizens League enthusiastically supports H.R. 1205, H.R. 6251, H.R. 4957, and H.R. 2212, and we were pleased to see support grow for them this week. For more information about these and other TSCL-backed bills, visit the Bill Tracking section of our website.