Update for Week Ending February 26, 2022

Update for Week Ending February 26, 2022

Congress Saves the Postal Service but Shifts Costs to Medicare

Recently we reported that the House of Representatives had passed a bill that would go a long way toward keeping the U.S. Postal Service solvent and in business. They did that by shifting the Postal Service retiree medical costs to Medicare. The bill has now gone to the Senate and may be voted on this week.

The legislation is important for seniors because so many of us receive our prescriptions through the mail. However, we also noted that the bill was adding news costs to Medicare and Medicare itself urgently needs Congressional action because its trust fund is expected to become insolvent in just four short years.

We noted in our report that we had not found how much additional cost there would be Medicare. Now, that number has come to light.

Kaiser Health News has reported that the Congressional Budget Office has estimated “the move could save the postal retirement and health programs about $5.6 billion through 2031 while adding $5.5 billion in costs to Medicare during that span, and probably much more in later years.”

While that number seems exceptionally large to all of us, it’s only a small fraction of what Medicare spends. But it does, once again, raise the issue that Congress must deal with the Medicare solvency issue – sooner rather than later.

That issue has been raised in the Senate, but it is highly unlikely Congress will start working on it this year given everything they still have to deal with, the toxic partisan culture that exists, and the fact that this is an election year.

TSCL’s Social Security and Medicare policy analyst, Mary Johnson, was quoted in the article. She pointed out that the failures of the mail system also have health consequences, with payments for insurance and shipments of prescriptions going missing.

Shoring up both Medicare and Social Security remains at the top of TSCL’s lobbying agenda and we will continue to push Congress to begin action on those issues.

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 Senate Working on Bill to Lower Insulin Cost

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has announced that legislation to lower the cost of insulin will be a priority in that chamber in the next few weeks.

The bill under consideration would cap consumers’ out-of-pocket insulin costs at $35 per month without changing the price drug makers charge for insulin.

This is an effort on the part of the Democratic leadership to get some kind of drug reduction legislation through Congress this year because their more comprehensive bill that would empower the government to negotiate with drug makers to reduce consumers’ prices, limit year-to-year increases in the cost of medicines, and cap out-of-pocket costs is tied up in the Senate.

However, not all Democrats like this idea. Some say the insulin bill simply isn’t enough to lower Americans’ drug costs in a meaningful way. The bill would cap consumers’ out-of-pocket insulin costs at $35 per month without changing the price drug makers charge for insulin.

They believe that passing bills to cap copays on an individual basis will simply shift costs and lead to higher premiums and taxes for consumers and that by creating a partial solution it would take away from the mission to create a complete solution.

The purpose of trying to pass the insulin cost cap alone is meant to test whether it can get bipartisan support in coming weeks.  It is expected that no Republicans will support legislation to lower overall drug costs, but Democrats are hoping they can get ten Republican to support the bill to lower insulin costs.

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Covid May be Down, but It’s Still Here

As covid restrictions are being lifted most of us are breathing a sigh of relief with the prospect that we can soon get back to “normal,” whatever that new normal may look like. However, we need to keep in mind that covid is not gone. It is still here and there are still millions of Americans who are at serious risk if they should catch it.

As Kaiser Health News reports, “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a strict definition of who is considered moderately or severely immunocompromised, such as cancer patients undergoing active treatment and organ transplant recipients. Still, millions of other people are living with chronic illnesses or disabilities that also make them especially susceptible to the disease. Though vulnerability differs based on each person and their health condition — and can depend on circumstances — catching covid is a risk they cannot take.”

In addition to those who are immunocompromised, seniors are the group who have been, and are, most at risk of severe consequences from covid. We still need to be careful and mindful of safe health practices when we are around those still at risk.

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As we continue dealing with the Covid 19 pandemic, TSCL remains constant in our 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.

For progress updates or for more information about these and other bills that would strengthen Social Security and Medicare programs, visit our website at www.SeniorsLeague.org or follow TSCL Facebook or on Twitter.