This week, lawmakers returned to Capitol Hill and those in the House passed legislation that will reduce prescription drug costs at pharmacies. In addition, the House Ways and Means Social Security Subcommittee met to discuss information technology within the Social Security program, The Senior Citizens League (TSCL) saw two key bills gain support.
House Passes Prescription Drug Legislation
On Tuesday, House lawmakers advanced two Senate-passed bills that will reduce prescription drug prices at pharmacies if signed into law. The Patient Right to Know Drug Prices Act (S. 2554) will 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. Similarly, the Know the Lowest Price Act (S. 2553) will protect Medicare beneficiaries from “gag clauses.”
Both bills are now awaiting the signature of President Donald Trump. He is expected to sign them into law in the very near future. The Senior Citizens League is pleased that lawmakers successfully advanced legislation that will protect the American public from “gag clauses” that result in higher out-of-pocket costs at pharmacies.
However, we believe Congress can and must do more to reduce prescription drug prices. In the months ahead, we will continue to advocate 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.
Social Security Subcommittee Examines Information Technology
On Thursday, the House Ways and Means Social Security Subcommittee held a hearing on the state of the Social Security program’s information technology (IT). Lawmakers on the subcommittee heard from three expert witnesses, including Rajive Mathur, Chief Information Officer at the Social Security Administration (SSA).
In his opening statement, Subcommittee Chairman Sam Johnson (TX-3) said: “Although Social Security now has modern hardware and modern data centers, its employees are still using software that is decades out of date. About 30 percent of these legacy systems still use COBOL code, an ancient programming language that isn’t even taught in schools anymore.” He explained that maintaining the outdated system is costly, it requires extra training for employees, and it is difficult to update when needed.
At Thursday’s hearing, Mr. Mathur updated the subcommittee members on the progress the administration is making to modernize the program’s information technology. The administration is in the process of implementing a five-year plan that will result in improved service, stronger cyber security, and lower operating costs. Mr. Mathur reported that SSA’s IT modernization efforts are currently on schedule and on budget, and that the outdated system should be fully replaced by 2022.
Several subcommittee members at Thursday’s hearing spoke about the importance of stable and reliable funding for the administration in the coming years so that it can continue its efforts to modernize the program’s IT system. The Senior Citizens League agrees that adequate administrative funding is critical, and we will continue to advocate for the Social Security Administration Fairness Act (S. 6251, H.R. 3147) in the months ahead. That bill, if adopted, would set SSA’s funding level at 1.5 percent of overall benefit payments, and it would implement a moratorium on field office closures so that beneficiaries receive the service they have earned and deserve.
For more information about the Social Security Administration Fairness Act, visit the Bill Tracking section of our website. For updates on the administration’s progress, follow The Senior Citizens League on Twitter.
Two Key Bills Gain Cosponsors
This week, The Senior Citizens League was pleased to see support grow for two key bills that would improve the Social Security and Medicare programs if adopted.
First, two new cosponsors – Representative Paul Gosar (AZ-4) and Representative John Larson (CT-1) – signed on to the Audiology Patient Choice Act (H.R. 2276), bringing the total up to thirty-two. If adopted, H.R. 2276 would improve Medicare coverage for hearing services that are performed by licensed audiologists. Under current law, audiologists are not recognized as providers of health-related hearing services, and the Medicare program will only reimburse them for their services when patients are referred by physicians or nurse practitioners.
Second, four new cosponsors signed on to the Social Security Fairness Act (S. 915, H.R. 1205), bringing the cosponsor total up to twenty-seven in the Senate and 190 in the House. The new cosponsors are: Senator Patty Murray (WA), Senator Tom Udall (NM), Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL-23), and Representative Vicky Hartzler (MO-4). 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.
The Senior Citizens League enthusiastically supports the Audiology Patient Choice Act and the Social Security Fairness Act, 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.