Supreme Court Vacancy Shuffles Senate Schedule
Congress is back in session this week after being out of session last week. They already had their hands full with the amount of work they need to do and the announcement of the retirement of Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer has added one more major item to the Senate’s calendar.
The Democratic majority has made it clear that replacing Breyer with whomever President Biden nominates will be a top priority. That will be added to other top priorities: preventing a government shutdown when the current funding of the government runs out on February 18 and passing some variation of the President’s “Build Back Better” legislation, among others.
While they have been coming up with the funding legislation needed for the rest of fiscal year 2022, many close observers doubt they will be able to finish in time to meet the February 18 deadline, which is now just three weeks away.
It is more likely that they will have to pass one more temporary funding bill to keep the government open and give them more time to complete the final funding bill.
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Drug Pricing Legislation Still in the Mix
As we have recently reported, there is still hope that Congress will be able to pass legislation that will have in it a provision to lower the costs of prescription drugs. However, it is the Democratic majority in the Senate that will determine whether that happens.
No Republicans are expected to support such legislation and coming up with a bill that Democratic Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema can support is still the major hurdle.
Last week the Democratic leaders of Congress would give no estimate of when they hope to pass a new version of “Build Back Better,” but they insist they will pass something yet this year.
However, the new priorities that have come before the Senate must be acted upon soon which likely will push drug price legislation further back than they originally anticipated.
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Hearing on Medicare Funding
A subcommittee of the Senate Finance Committee will hold a hearing this week on the Hospital Insurance Trust Fund and the Future of Medicare Financing. That’s good news!
One of TSCL’s concerns is for the long-term health of Medicare. The Congressional Budget Office has projected the Medicare Hospital Insurance Trust Fund to become insolvent as soon as 2026.
It’s past time for Congress to deal with this and we are happy to see that this hearing is being held.
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Drug Prices Go Up Again
According to Rx Savings Solutions, drugmakers raised list prices by an average of 6.6% in the first few weeks of this year on cancer, diabetes, and other prescription medicines. These increases are considered to be more moderate than those in past years, most likely because of the determined effort in Congress this year to pass some sort of legislation to lower the costs of prescription drugs.
The report said that about 150 drugmakers raised prices on 866 products in the U.S. through Jan. 20.
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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.