This week TSCL Board member and Legislative Liaison, Doug Osborne, was in Washington. D.C. Mr. Osborne began his visit by laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier for Veteran’s Day with TSCL’s parent organization, TREA: The Enlisted Association. Together with TSCL Executive Director Shannon Benton and TSCL Legislative Consultant Larry Madison he spent the next two days on the “Hill” speaking with Congressional staff members about legislation TSCL is lobbying to pass in Congress. The focus of our efforts was on Social Security issues, specifically the “Notch” issue and the “Windfall Elimination Provision,” (WEP) both of which affect many TSCL supporters.
The good news is that both issues tend to be non-partisan. However, the bad news is that both cost a considerable amount of money, which means more federal spending. That's why the bills we support that would fix those issues have been tied up in committee for so long and have not been able to move through either the House or Senate.
In our meetings this week we were pleased to learn that the members of Congress whose offices we visited plan on once again co-sponsoring the Notch bill. We also were very encourages to learn that there is a new bill that would repeal the Windfall Elimination Provision that has the best chance in years of moving out of committee and forward to the full House of Representatives for a vote.
Obviously we will continue to push for passage of those bills and keep you updated about their progress as things develop.
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The week ended with a live speech from President Trump heralding the new legislation passed recently that makes mandatory the transparency of the cost of hospital treatments, supplies and prescriptions. Of most interest to TSCL is the high cost of prescription drugs. During our meetings with Congressional offices this week we left information with all of them concerning a large number of issues we are working on including prescription drug prices.
According to a report from Kaiser Health News, the skepticism is “Because whether it’s sharing the credit for a legislative victory with the other party or running afoul of the powerful pharmaceutical lobby, neither Democrats nor Republicans are sure the benefits are worth the risks, according to several of those familiar with the debate on Capitol Hill.
Last year President Trump proposed lowering the prices of certain Medicare drug prices by tying those prices to lower prices paid in other developed countries. Under that proposal, prices would have been lower than they are now, but would still be a certain percentage higher than they are in other countries. The President was not satisfied with that idea, according to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar. On Wednesday Azar said the President wants the proposal changed so that prices in the United States are even lower than they are in other countries.
Congressional Republicans have also indicated opposition to the administration’s proposal, saying it breaks from GOP philosophy by linking U.S. prices to those in other countries where there are price controls. While they like it in part, some Democrats have said it does not go far enough in lowering prices. The change would only lower prices for physician-administered drugs for people on Medicare, meaning people with private insurance and people getting drugs at the pharmacy counter would not benefit from lower prices.
In short, there are two main obstacles to the "Pelosi" bill to lower drug prices: overcoming objections from House Democratic progressives and getting through the Republican opposition in the Senate.
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.