Update for Week Ending September 18, 2021

Update for Week Ending September 18, 2021

Will the Government Shut Down in 10 Days?

It’s do or die time for Congress.  Unless they can pass a federal government funding bill in the next 10 days the government will shut down on October 1.  And those 10 days are not all working days unless they decide to work through next weekend.

Congressional leaders have already given up on the idea of fully funding the government for the entire 2022 fiscal year and instead the current plan is to pass a “continuing resolution” (CR) that will fund the government at current levels until December 3.  The idea is to give them more time to craft the legislation needed to fully fund the new fiscal year.

Unfortunately, this has become standard operating procedure in Congress, regardless of who’s in power.  And even shutting down the government for a period of time is no longer seen to be the drastic action it once was.

But that’s not all Congress must do before October 1.  The Secretary of the Treasury has warned that if Congress doesn’t raise the debt ceiling very soon the government will default on its bills sometime in October.  The “full faith and credit” of the U.S. government is at stake here and the repercussions of a government default are not totally known but they could be disastrous.

Fixing this problem seems to be more complicated than passing a continuing resolution to temporarily fund the government.  Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has made it known that no Republican Senators will support raising the debt ceiling and without Republican support Democrats will have to resort to a special procedure called “reconciliation” in order to pass it because of the Senate filibuster rule.  In the past there has been partisan squabbling over raising the debt ceiling but when it came right down to it both sides ended up voting to raise it.  We’ll find out very soon whether that will happen this time.

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Will Medicare Soon Include Dental Coverage and More?

There’s an old saying: “Laws are like sausages; it is better not to see them being made.”

That has never been truer than in this Congress.  In trying to craft the new legislation to improve Medicare benefits and lower drug prices, it turns out it’s not just Democrat vs. Republican, it’s also Senate vs. House, Democrat vs. Democrat, and to a lesser extent, Republican vs. Republican.

According to a report in Bloomberg Government News, “Centrist Democrats in the House are pushing to shrink their party’s health-care wish list to focus more on low-income Americans, a move backed by industry groups including dentists who say a narrower focus is better policy.

“The group of Democrats blocked one committee from advancing their party’s drug-pricing legislation, with two members arguing it was too far-reaching and could stymie innovation in the pharmaceutical industry. Some of those Democrats also want to rein in a proposal to expand Medicare to include dental coverage, a high priority for progressives such as Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).”

The report continues, “Two House panels last week approved legislation adding vision, hearing and dental coverage to Medicare. Dental is by far the most expensive and complicated of the three to roll out: the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office previously estimated that such coverage would cost $238 billion over 10 years, compared with $30 billion for vision and $89 billion for hearing coverage.

“To lower the expected cost of these new benefits, House Democrats have proposed introducing the new dental benefits starting in 2028, ramping up the coverage over five years.”

TSCL has long supported adding vision, dental and hearing benefits to Medicare, as well as supporting legislation to lower prescription drug prices.  We are waiting to see what the final bills look like that come out of the House and Senate before we determine what kind of endorsement to give.

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More Funding Sought for Home Health Care

One of the programs President Biden supported during his campaign for

President was expanding home and community-based care for the elderly and disabled and improving conditions for the poorly paid workers who give that care.

Now there is a lobbying effort to make sure enough money is provided for those programs because without sufficient funding states could choose not to take the money and leave their Medicaid programs running as is.

The proposed funding increase into Medicaid’s Home and Community Based Services program has two goals: reducing waiting lists for support for older and disabled Americans who want to stay in their homes rather than go into assisted living facilities or other institutions, and raising pay for home health care’s largely female, minority workforce.

Medicaid is the largest payer of long-term support services such as home care for the elderly, but states are not required to participate in the home and community-based program.

Home care, though, is much cheaper, overall. The yearly average cost, per person, of a nursing home to Medicaid is $90,000 compared with $26,000 for home care workers, according to one expert.

Although home health workers are one of the fastest-growing segments of the labor market, they typically earn about $17,000 per year, often without benefits.

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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 the our website at www.SeniorsLeague.orgfollow TSCL on Twitter or Facebook.