The Senior Citizens League Weekly Update for Week Ending March 20, 2020

The Senior Citizens League Weekly Update for Week Ending March 20, 2020

In spite of the coronavirus emergency, TSCL is continuing its fight for you to protect your Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid benefits. We've had to make some adjustments in the way we carry on our work but we have not, and will not stop our work on your behalf.

Both houses of Congress had scheduled a recess for this week, but because of the coronavirus emergency the Senate decided to stay in Washington and continue to work. That was probably a good idea since the Senators are behind the House in getting their jobs done.

A few Senators have voluntarily quarantined themselves but we haven't heard of any who have tested positive for the coronavirus. The same is not true in the House, however. At least two members of the House have now tested positive.

House members have been told not to return to the Capitol until the Senate finishes its work on the stimulus package. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) notified members in mid-week the chamber won’t resume its session until the Senate is done working on a massive economic stimulus measure, and voting procedures will be adjusted to follow the recommendations of health officials.

Whenever it is that the House comes into session, it has not been decided how they will conduct their business.  It could be, that for the first time in history, the House will be in session without being at the Capitol.  They may conduct their business on-line or perhaps with Skype.

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has let it be known that he wants the Republicans in the Senate to reach agreement on an economic stimulus bill today (Friday) so he can schedule a vote on the bill on Monday. However, the bill was developed without input from the Senate Democrats and they are unhappy with parts of it.

No end to “surprise billing” yet

Among other things, there had been reports that ending surprise billing would be part of the legislation. TSCL has been fighting to stop the unfair practice whereby people who have health insurance go to a hospital or other health care provider and they think they are covered by their insurance. However, they end up receiving care from a provider who does not accept their insurance and they can be stuck with a bill of thousands of dollars.

Unfortunately, the final Senate bill released by Senator McConnell does not end surprise billing. According to a report from Bloomberg News, “Senate Republican leaders decided against including a proposal to limit surprise medical bills as part of the latest coronavirus response bill, according to aides and lobbyists familiar with the talks.”

The report further stated that, “... Senate leaders rejected the request from their own ranks to include the provisions in the bill”

It turns out that conservative groups, which have rallied together this year to oppose the leading surprise billing proposals, warned lawmakers Thursday against attempting to put the fix into the coronavirus package.

Nonetheless, TSCL will continue our fight to end the unfair practice of surprise billing.

Cuts to Medicare are stopped

The legislation also would lift spending restrictions on Medicare payments this year, a provision that was heavily lobbied for by health-care providers who say they’re losing $1 million a day.

Those cuts in payments to hospitals and doctors, known as sequestration, slashed more than $15 billion from Medicare payments in fiscal year 2020 alone. Ending sequestration was among the top requests made by hospital groups, who argue the coronavirus outbreak is draining resources.

The legislation proposes that Medicare give hospitals an added payment for caring for coronavirus patients that amounts to a 15% bonus.

The legislation would also give drug companies an incentive to create new therapies and vaccines by ensuring that they have a market for their products.

Plenty of toilet paper

You may have experienced that fact that, for whatever reason, people have been stocking up on toilet paper in ways that far exceed normal times. Many of you may have gone to the grocery store to get some only to find the shelves empty.

Well, the good news is that toilet paper—unlike some other high-demand items such as hand sanitizer and face masks—remains plentiful, according to the two biggest manufacturers. Charmin maker Procter & Gamble Co. and Cottonelle maker Kimberly-Clark Corp. say they have ramped up toilet-paper production and are able to make enough to meet demand.

Kimberly-Clark has started posting pictures of warehouses full of toilet paper in some markets. The problem, the manufacturers say, is getting the product shipped to warehouses and retailers, and then onto store shelves quickly enough to keep up with sales.

Now with many grocery stores instituting specific shopping times for seniors and limiting shoppers on the amount they can purchase at one time, the shortage will, hopefully, end soon.

For progress updates or for more information about these and other bills that would strengthen Social Security and Medicare programs, visit the Bill Tracking section of our website or follow TSCL on Twitter.