Update for Week Ending March 5, 2022

Update for Week Ending March 5, 2022

State of the Union Speech and Health Care

In his State of the Union speech last week President Biden, understandably, spent a great deal of time on foreign policy, and specifically Ukraine, but he also emphasized a number of key health care issues that need to be dealt with.

Among those were prescription drug prices and Insulin prices in particular, mental health issues, nursing home regulation, and toxic burn pits, an issue of real importance to veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan.

However, he did not mention expanding Medicare benefits, specifically coverage for vision care.

* * * *

Improving Nursing Home Care

The need for improved nursing home care has been discussed for a long time. It is not hard to find individuals who are not happy with the care an elderly loved one received in a nursing home. And yet, nursing home care is an essential fact of life in a society where people are living longer.

The issue has been highlighted by the fact that nearly a quarter of the people who died from Covid 19 were either residents in or workers in a nursing home.

However, as pointed out by Kaiser Health News, the changes proposed by the President “will hit a hard reality: Nursing homes face severe labor shortages. Recruiting employees is a challenge because of the difficult work involved, the risks of covid, and the meager average pay.

“Improvements to nursing home care can be expected to take time. Some proposals will need congressional funding, and although nursing home safety has general bipartisan support, there are many interests competing for federal dollars. In addition, making changes through regulation is a time-consuming process.”

* * * *

Effort to Lower Prescription Drug Prices Still Alive

 According to the Washington Post, “Democrats are trying to breathe new life into their drug pricing efforts ….

“The influential Senate Finance Committee is eyeing holding a hearing on the cost of medicines as Democrats hope to craft a scaled-back version of President Biden’s economic package, according to four people with knowledge of the matter.

“Though not yet official, the hearing could occur as soon as this month, per three of the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the private discussions. It would likely center around the urgency of addressing high pharmaceutical prices. The idea, in part, is to highlight the need to pass drug pricing legislation soon, according to a Senate Democratic aide.

“Democrats’ plan to lower the cost of prescription drugs has broad support within the party after lawmakers clinched a deal following afrenzy of negotiations last fall. And doing so is important to Democrats, who are seeking legislative victories ahead of the midterms.”

As we have pointed out before, no Republican Senator has indicated a willingness to vote for the prescription drug price legislation being worked on by the Democrats so the Democrats must be able to produce a bill that all of them will support if they are to pass it in the Senate.

* * * *

New Legislation to Limit Insulin Costs

In addition to general prescription drug legislation, the Democrats have indicated they will be working on a new bill to limit insulin costs to $35 per month.

Americans who need insulin pay 10 times more than people in other developed countries and capping the cost of insulin has broad public support and even bi-partisan support in Congress.

However, passing the legislation is no sure thing. Democrats are divided about bringing the issue up as a separate bill or trying to revive the major legislation called Build Back Better that is in real trouble at this point. Capping insulin costs is part of that bill but a stand-alone bill on insulin costs appears to be much more realistic at this point.

There is also the question of whether any Republicans in the Senate would support it. Some Republican Senators have spoken about the need to cap insulin costs and even have written a bill of their own but politics being what they are now in Washington, there is a real question of whether Republicans would help Democrats pass a bill in an election year.

* * * *

Government Shut-down This Weekend?

Congress has until the end of this Friday to pass legislation needed to keep the government open or the federal government will once again shut down.

They have been working feverishly on the needed legislation to fund the government for the rest of this fiscal year, which ends on September 30. However, they have not yet reached an agreement, so the guessing is that if they cannot reach an agreement by the end of tomorrow (Tuesday), they will have to pass another short-term Concurrent Resolution to keep the doors open until they do so.

It is not likely the government down will shut down, especially in an election year, but they are cutting it very close.

* * * *

 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.