Congress Struggles to Meet Looming Deadlines
One of the most accurate things you can say about Congress last week and this current week is that things are fluid.
As we reported last week, the Democratic majority is fighting among themselves over what they want included in legislation and the procedures they should use if they can reach agreement on what’s included. Because of the disagreements, President Biden met with many Democratic Congressional leaders last week, hoping to get them to compromise so that his legislative agenda can get passed.
In addition to that, Congress has until midnight this Thursday to pass some kind of legislation to fund the government or it will shut down at 12:01 a.m. on Friday. And they have been warned that they may only have until October 15 to raise the debt ceiling or the U.S. will default on payment of its loans.
Because of all this one of the key committees in the House of Representatives held an unusual meeting on Saturday in order to try and move things along. In addition, Democratic Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.)) has warned that the House may have to work more days in October than are currently scheduled.
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Changes in Medicare Benefits Uncertain
One of the controversies being fought over is what changes to make in Medicare, including coverage of dental, vision and hearing benefits. According to one report, Democrats remain especially divided on that Medicare piece and whether to focus funds on expanding Medicaid, as well as on a proposal to regulate drug prices.
House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.) has said that every revenue measure his committee approved last week is still under consideration, including allowing government negotiation of prescription drug prices.
He said the exact prescription drug pricing negotiation language was still under discussion. It could be as broad as a House-passed bill from the last Congress that would make hundreds of prescription drugs subject to price negotiation for Medicare and the private market, which the Congressional Budget Office estimated would reduce deficits by roughly $500 billion, or a narrower version that would save less money.
Those fights are just in the House. But there are more in the Senate.
According to a report in Bloomberg Government News, “Senator Joe Manchin said Thursday he doesn’t support expanding Medicare benefits without first addressing the program’s [Medicare’s] long-term solvency, again putting him at odds with Senator Bernie Sanders and other key liberals as they negotiate President Joe Biden’s economic agenda.
“Asked about Democrats’ plans to expand benefits for dental, vision and hearing in the upcoming budget reconciliation bill, the West Virginia Democrat pointed to the program’s long-term financial problems instead.”
The report continued, “Manchin did, however, reiterate his support for Medicare negotiating lower prices for prescription drugs -- another top Democratic priority imperiled by a small group of House Democrats during negotiations on Biden’s economic agenda.
“’We definitely should let Medicare negotiate the prescription drug prices. That’s one thing that should be done for sure,’ he said.”
TSCL is watching these developments very closely and we will determine our support of the legislation concerning changes in Medicare after the final draft of the legislation is put together and released.
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Medicare and Medicaid Will Pay for Covid Booster Shots
Late last week it was announced that Medicare and Medicaid will pay the full cost of Covid-19 booster shots with no co-pays for everyone on their rolls.
In addition, Walgreens has started to give booster shots for Covid-19 at their stores across the U.S.
If you use Walgreens, here’s are the procedures to follow to register for the booster.
- Walgreens will use its online scheduler to screen for qualifications, including asking people which vaccine they received
- For those who got the Pfizer-BioNTech shots, they’ll be asked when they received their second dose
- People will be encouraged to bring their vaccination cards to their booster appointment but the cards won’t be required
- The scheduler will also ask about booking other shots, like the flu shot, when you book your appointment. The guidance from the Director of the National Institutes of Health is that you can receive a flu shot and Covid booster on the same day.
Separately, Walmart and CVS drug stores have announced that their pharmacies have also begun offering booster shots for qualified individuals although we have seen no information regarding their procedures for registering for the shots.
If you do not use a computer we recommend you call your local Walgreens, Walmart or CVS and ask how to register for the booster shot.
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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.org, follow TSCL on Twitter or Facebook.