Legislative Update for Week Ending September 21, 2018

Legislative Update for Week Ending September 21, 2018

This week, House lawmakers returned to their home districts for a week-long recess, and those in the Senate joined them after advancing legislation that would reduce prescription drug prices at pharmacies.

Lawmakers Adjourn for Brief Recess

This week, House and Senate lawmakers returned to their home states and districts for a brief recess. They are expected to return to Capitol Hill on Tuesday, September 25. In the meantime, many will be attending local events and hosting town hall meetings. The Senior Citizens League encourages its supporters to attend these events and to ask important questions of their elected officials, like the following five…

  1. Social Security beneficiaries received a 2% cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) this year, but most have seen their benefit increases completely offset by higher Medicare Part B premiums. Do you support legislation that would give older Americans more fair and adequate Social Security COLAs?
  2. Some lawmakers are advocating for paid leave legislation that would require new parents to trade their future Social Security retirement benefits for twelve weeks of parental leave. This would undermine the mission of the Social Security program, increase its insolvency, and permanently cut the retirement benefits of those who take paid leave. Do you think this is a responsible proposal?
  3. Earlier this year, more than 150 House lawmakers proposed a budget blueprint that would have reformed 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 budget blueprint, and if so, why?
  4. The federal government negotiates prescription drug prices for Medicaid and for veterans, but it is barred from negotiating lower prices for Medicare beneficiaries. As a result, senior citizens enrolled in Part D often pay much higher prices for their prescriptions. What are you doing to correct this unfair policy?
  5. Medicare is currently prohibited from covering most hearing, vision, and dental services, even though millions of seniors are afflicted with age-related hearing loss, low vision, and poor oral health. When left untreated, these conditions often result in serious injuries and complications. What do you feel should be done about this?

For information about town hall meetings near you in the days ahead, call the local offices of your elected officials. For contact information, click HERE.

Senate Advances Prescription Drug Legislation

On Monday, shortly before leaving Washington for a brief recess, lawmakers in the Senate passed legislation called the Patient Right to Know Drug Prices Act (S. 2554) with a vote of 98-2. The bill, which was introduced by Senator Susan Collins (ME) earlier this year, would prohibit “gag clauses” that prevent pharmacists from telling consumers when it would be cheaper to purchase their prescriptions out-of-pocket rather than through their health insurance.

A similar bill that would protect Medicare beneficiaries from “gag clauses” – the Know the Lowest Price Act (S. 2553) – was passed unanimously by the Senate two weeks ago. Lawmakers on the House Energy and Commerce Committee advanced similar legislation last week, and their bill must now be adopted on the House floor before it can be signed into law by President Trump.

In a tweet on Monday, President Trump wrote: “Americans deserve to know the lowest drug price at their pharmacy, but ‘gag clauses’ prevent your pharmacist from telling you! I support legislation that will remove gag clauses and urge the Senate to act.”

The Senior Citizens League agrees and we are pleased to see legislation prohibiting “gag clauses” advance through Congress. However, we believe Congress can and must do more to reduce prescription drug prices. In the weeks ahead, we will continue to advocate tirelessly for legislation like the Medicare Prescription Drug Price Negotiation Act (S. 41, H.R. 242), the Affordable and Safe Prescription Drug Importation Act (S. 469, H.R. 1245), and the Improving Access to Affordable Prescription Drugs Act (S. 771, H.R. 1776).

For more information about these and other bills that would reduce prescription drug prices, visit the Bill Tracking section of our website. For progress updates, follow The Senior Citizens League on Twitter.