Congress Returns to Washington
The members of Congress returned to Washington last week and began what is known as the Second Session of the 117th Congress. They have a full agenda to deal with including some very pressing issues that must be acted upon very soon. Considering that this is an election year and the extreme political polarization in the country, the ability of Congress to accomplish much of anything will be put to a major test.
Government Shutdown Once Again Lurks on the Horizon
The subject hasn’t appeared in the media since the agreement in December on a short-term government funding bill, but Congress is working on a spending bill to keep the government open for the rest of fiscal year 2022. The short-term funding bill they passed lasts until February 18, which is only four weeks away, so getting legislation put together becomes more urgent as each day passes.
Will Prescription Drug Legislation Pass This Year?
As a reminder, the provision to reduce the costs of prescription drugs is part of the legislative package called “Build Back Better,” which is one of the top priorities of President Biden. However, because of the Senate rule regarding a filibuster which requires 60 votes to pass a bill instead of a simple majority of 51, Democrats do not have enough votes to pass the bill at this time. No Republican supports the bill and Senators Joe Manchin (D - W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D -Ariz.) have both announced they are opposed to changing the rules regarding a filibuster.
So where does that leave the prescription drug effort?
Some Democrats are starting to talk about pulling certain provisions out of the Build Back Better legislation that are popular with the public and that some Republicans have previously come out in support of and trying to pass them as stand-alone bills.
So far, the Democratic leaders in Congress have not agreed to do this, but it is under discussion.
If that effort is not made, then the fate of lowering the costs of prescription drugs rests with the fate of the Build Back Better legislation, which right now does not look promising.
We urge you to contact your own Senators and Representative and let them know you want Congress to pass legislation to lower the costs of prescription drugs. Since this is an election year and control of Congress will be up for grabs, your voice can make a major difference in the fight over drug prices.
In the meantime, TSCL will continue doing our part to push Congress to act this year to bring the costs of prescription drugs down.
Will the Medicare Part B Premium be Lowered?
As you no doubt know by now, the increase in the Medicare Part B premium for 2022 is the largest ever. As we previously reported, the large increase came about as a result of Medicare preparing to pay for the cost of a new drug that supposedly helps patients with Alzheimers disease.
However, in a new draft policy announced last week, Medicare will severely restrict the number of seniors who can access the drug at all because it plans to only cover the drug for patients participating in rigorous, agency-approved clinical trials.
While the draft policy has not yet gone into effect, now is the time to put pressure on to lower the Part B premium. First, the company that makes the drug cut its cost in half. Second, because Medicare will only cover patients in approved clinical trials, the number of people receiving the drug will be many fewer than previously estimated.
While the Part B premium increase is governed by administrative procedures put in place by law, Congress can pressure the Dept. of Health and Human Services to lower the premium given the changed conditions.
Again, since this is an election year, pressure from voters can have a real impact in this regard. So we urge you to contact your Senators and Representative and tell them there is no longer a need for the huge Part B Premium increase and that the monthly premium needs to be lowered and there should be a rebate of the excess premium paid by those enrolled in Part B for however many months they pay the excess premium.
Panel Recommends Payment Cuts for Nursing Homes/Home Health in 2023
Bloomberg News has reported that a federal advisory commission will recommend to Congress that traditional Medicare lower payments by 5% to nursing homes, home health agencies, and inpatient rehabilitation facilities in 2023.
After assessing payment adequacy, the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) found that the three provider groups were receiving sufficient reimbursement for the services they provide.
MedPAC provides lawmakers with analysis and policy advice on the taxpayer-funded Medicare program. Its recommendations are nonbinding, but Congress utilizes commissioners’ expertise when making funding decisions
In addition, the panel recommended that hospice providers would see no payment increase in 2023.
The commission also finalized a draft recommendation calling for a 20% cut in Medicare’s annual per-patient payment limit, or “aggregate cap,” for hospice providers in 2023.
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 the our website at www.SeniorsLeague.org, follow TSCL on Twitter or Facebook.