TSCL Weekly Legislative Update For the Week Ending September 27, 2019

TSCL Weekly Legislative Update For the Week Ending September 27, 2019

As has been expected, the Senate passed a CR (continuing resolution) this week that will keep the federal government open until Nov. 21.  The House had previously passed the bill and a spokesman for President Trump has indicated he will sign it.  So, a government shut-down has been avoided – for now. But, there are still strong disagreements between the majority parties in the House, the Senate, and President Trump on a number of major issues, including funding for the President's border wall, lowering prescription drug prices, and abortion, among other issues.

We have previously reported that the House has passed 10 of the 12 funding bills needed for Fiscal Year 2020 while the Senate has passed none.  Members of Congress will be out of town for the next two weeks leaving only about five weeks for them to find enough agreement to pass all 12 funding bills and have those bills be signed into law.

While it's true that most of them are likely to be home in their states and districts, this is not an election year and one has to wonder why they aren't staying in Washington to work out their differences.  If they can't do that prior to Nov. 21, then we'll be back to the same situation they've just avoided:  either pass another CR or shut down the government.

In our opinion, it's good for Members of Congress to be back home to listen to voters, but leaving town so often before they finish their work is a major reason why voters are so cynical about what they see as the dysfunction in Washington.

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The price of prescription drugs is shaping up to be a major campaign issue for next year.  As we've previously talked about, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has introduced a bill that would authorize the government to negotiate drug prices for Medicare with the drug companies.  However, if the bill passes the House this year it's questionable whether it would go anywhere in the Senate.

President Trump has spoken often about the need to lower drug prices, but he has not indicated what kind of legislation he will support to do that.  This leaves the House Republican minority floundering as to what type of legislation they should support to lower drug prices.  As a result they have simply resorted to opposing the Pelosi bill.  In the Senate, Finance Committee Chairman Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) has his own bill that would penalize pharmaceutical companies for raising prices faster than the rate of inflation.  The Senator has met with House Republicans to discuss his proposal, but many conservatives in the GOP have been reluctant to support the caps on Medicare drug-price increases that the Grassley bill would impose.  Chairman Grassley said he has also been meeting with House Democrats about their drug bills “to see where the differences are and see if we can work out anything to hopefully get a bill to the president whenever we can.”  We applaud his bi-partisan efforts.

With all this pressure in Congress and by the President to reduce drug prices, the drug companies have launched an all -out campaign to try and stop any legislation.   It turns out that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s drug pricing bill rests in the hands of lawmakers who received more campaign contributions from the pharmaceutical industry than almost all other Democrats.  Rep. Richard Neal (D-Mass.), who chairs the powerful House Ways and Means Committee and Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, have both received huge amounts of money from drug company-related political action committees.  Our concern is that Congressmen Pallone and Neal are two of the Pelosi bill’s three co-sponsors. Their committees are the ones that focus most heavily on health care issues and will likely consider amendments to the legislation before it is brought up for a vote on the House floor.

Over the past year or two there have been horror stories about the outrageous price increases drug companies have imposed on drugs that literally are life-saving.  Among them is the fight over the cost of insulin that diabetics need is on-going.  And there have been several others. The result is that pharmaceutical industry has become more disliked by the American public than any other.  So their response is to pour even more money into Washington.

That's why your continue support of TSCL and our work to fight for you is so important.  The rest of this year and next year are crucial in our fight for seniors and we need you with us.  We do not take any money from the drug companies.  Our only support is from you.

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Finally, flu season is upon us and it's time for all of us to get a flu shot.  Some people are skeptical about getting the shot so we want to pass along parts of an article that was published in the Oregonian newspaper recently.

By Fedor Zarkhin | The Oregonian

Even though flu infections hit  … the United States every year, health officials can predict little, if anything, about the likely impact.

They won’t know how bad a season is – essentially if the vaccine works-- until well into the winter.

Flu season usually hits sometime between October and May, if past flu seasons are any indication, and lasts four to six weeks.

Yearly flu shots are notoriously unreliable. Some seasons, they protect many people from getting the flu. Others, they don’t.

There are many variations of the influenza virus, each needing a different kind of vaccine. And the virus changes shape all the time, further helping it slip past the body’s defenses. Flu shots are basically an educated guess as to what types of flu viruses will be most common in the upcoming season.

Getting a shot can protect far more than just one person.

Babies younger than 6 months aren’t supposed to get shots. That means they can easily catch an infection  …  which is dangerous because infants are more likely to have serious complications than adults.

Elderly people are also susceptible to complications. That can be a serious problem in long-term care centers such as nursing homes, where an infection can quickly spread from one person to other residents.

The flu is spread through coughing, sneezing and unwashed hands. While flu actually is a year-round virus, it hits harder in the cold weather season. Researchers don’t know exactly why, but a leading theory is that the virus survives better in cold, dry air.

The vast majority of concentrated flu outbreaks in the 2018 to 2019 season were in long-term care facilities – 109 out of 156, according to data published by the Oregon Health Authority.   Another 35 were schools or day cares.

People who catch the flu suffer through up to two weeks of aches, fevers, chills, headaches and fatigue.

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.