May 2024

May 2024

The summer season is upon us, and we are heading quickly to the end of the federal government’s fiscal year, September 30th. That’s the date funding for the government for FY2024 runs out, and Congress is supposed to have passed a new budget for FY2025. But like most years in the past decade or two, no one expects they will meet that deadline.

They have been holding hearings on important issues, including the future of Social Security, and we cover that below. We also discuss a new tool to lower prescription drug prices, secure health information, and a new plan for aging in America.


House of Representatives Holds Hearing on Future of Social Security

The Social Security Board of Trustees released its annual report on the financial status of the Social Security programs in May.

Both the Trustees and the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) project that Social Security’s retirement and survivor’s program will not be able to pay full benefits in less than a decade. Both still project that Trust Fund exhaustion could lead to immediate benefit cuts of 21 to 25 percent for the tens of millions of seniors and their families who rely on the program.

Because of this, the House Ways and Means Committee's Social Security Subcommittee has held a hearing on the future of the Social Security Trust Fund.

Like so much else in Congress, this hearing resulted in a lot of partisan finger-pointing. The two parties tried to blame the other for the emergency that Social Security will soon be facing.

Although no action by Congress is expected this year, especially since we’re in a Presidential election year, we can only hope this will be the beginning of a serious attempt by Congress to develop bipartisan legislation that will fix the problem and give seniors a sense of certainty that their Social Security benefits will continue to be there for them.

For our part, TSCL will submit testimony to the subcommittee with our recommendations for what actions Congress needs to take.

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Lawmakers Urge Government to Finalize Rules to Boost Competition and Lower Drug Prices

In what could be another weapon in the battle against high drug prices, two Democratic lawmakers, one in the Senate and one in the House, have sent a letter urging the U.S. Department of Commerce to finalize rules that could result in more competition and lower prices in the pharmaceutical industry.

Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Rep. Lloyd Doggett of Texas say in their letter that their review of comments about a “march-in rights” process has received broad support from seniors, dozens of healthcare providers, and the wider public.

March-in rights allow the federal government to grant patent licenses to other parties or take licenses for themselves if the government helped fund the patent owner's research and development. Such licenses can even be granted to competitors if the government deems it necessary. The proposal would help boost competition and reduce drug prices for American families by allowing the federal government to step in when private actors, including drug manufacturers, charge exorbitant prices for products that taxpayers helped pay to develop.

In the letter, the lawmakers drew attention to an analysis that gathered over 50,000 comments and revealed that Americans are paying more for drugs that their tax dollars were used to develop than what residents in other high-income countries are paying for those same drugs. The comments further reflect concerns from healthcare providers, who are calling for change on behalf of their patients and Americans across the country, especially seniors, who are struggling to afford their medication and view march-in rights as a way to reduce drug prices.

"Although big pharmaceutical companies are fighting this commonsense framework," their letter concluded, "there is a consensus among seniors, health care providers, and the general public: price must be a factor in agencies' considerations for the use of march-in rights. We urge you to strengthen and finalize the guidance without delay to ensure that American taxpayers and consumers are able to access taxpayer-funded inventions at affordable prices."

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President and Congress Search for Ways to Better Protect American’s Health Information

Last February, it was discovered that Change Healthcare had been the victim of a cyberattack and that up to a third of Americans had their private health information exposed. While the full extent of the hack has yet to be determined, the breach is believed to be the largest healthcare hack in US history and has cost parent company UnitedHealth Group Inc. up to $1.6 billion in profits this year.

Change Healthcare processes pharmacy requests and insurance claims for over 340,000 physicians and 60,000 pharmacies. The hack resulted in some patients having to wait to have their prescriptions filled and healthcare providers having to wait for payments for the services they had provided.

Now, cyberattacks compromising the health information of millions of Americans are prompting Congress and the Biden administration to take action to better protect highly sensitive personal data that’s profitable for hackers.

Lawmakers and regulators have been scrambling in their response.

In May, Senate lawmakers grilled the CEO of UnitedHealth Group over the attack, pressing the embattled executive on why the company left so much health information vulnerable and what should be done to avoid a repeat. Shortly after, the White House said it was hospital standards to protect patient information better.

Senators on both sides of the aisle are considering legislation to better protect health information. They’ve also increased pressure on the Biden administration’s labor and health departments to play a greater role in preventing and responding to cyberattacks.

As part of its response to the situation, a Health and Human Services Department spokesperson said the agency is considering issuing new enforceable cybersecurity standards for the healthcare sector, a move that could face a backlash from hospitals, which believe the responsibility to fight the cyberattacks rests with the federal government.

TSCL believes it would be wise for all entities involved to work together to solve this serious situation instead of arguing about whose responsibility it is.

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HHS Delivers Strategic Framework for National Plan on Aging

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, through its Administration for Community Living, has released “Aging in the United States: A Strategic Framework for a National Plan on Aging.” The report lays the groundwork for a coordinated effort – across the private and public sectors and in partnership with older adults, family caregivers, the aging services network, and other stakeholders – to create a national set of recommendations for advancing healthy aging and age-friendly communities that value and truly include older adults.

The national plan on aging will advance best practices for service delivery, support development and strengthening of partnerships within and across sectors, identify solutions for removing barriers to health and independence for older adults, and more.

Developed by leaders and experts from sixteen federal agencies and departments working together through the Interagency Coordinating Committee (ICC) on Healthy Aging and Age-Friendly Communities, the report also reflects input from community partners and leaders in the aging services network.

“Ensuring that every American can age with dignity has been a priority throughout the Biden-Harris Administration and is at the core of our work at HHS,” said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra. “From day one, we have focused on lowering prescription drug costs, improving support for family caregivers, strengthening the workforce that provides in-home services, increasing access to health care, and more to support older adults. The Strategic Framework provides a roadmap for us to build upon that progress to improve the experience of aging in our country.”

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For progress updates or more information about these and other bills that would strengthen Social Security and Medicare programs, visit our website at