Big Effort to Lower Drug Prices Once Again in Congress
Last year the House of Representatives passed major legislation to lower drug prices that included giving the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) the authority to negotiate for lower drug prices with drug companies.
Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who was the Senate Majority Leader at that time, refused to even bring the bill up for a vote on the Senate floor.
Now Congressional Democrats, while only having a razor-thin majority in the Senate, are planning a major push to include in measures to lower drug prices in upcoming legislation meant to rebuild the U.S. infrastructure.
According to a report in The Hill newspaper, “House Democratic leaders are intent on including a measure that would allow the secretary of Health and Human Services to negotiate lower prices for prescription drugs, sources say.”
The report goes on to say that “… the bill is fiercely opposed by Republicans and the powerful pharmaceutical industry, with executives warning it would harm innovation that leads to new drug development. The 50-50 split in the Senate is also raising questions about whether it could get through that chamber without losing any moderate Democrats.”
Democratic leaders believe the measure could save almost half a trillion dollars if it were to pass. And while it would be much more likely to be brought up for a vote, the uncertainty about whether it could pass in the Senate remains.
In order to pass it all 50 Democratic Senators would have to support the legislation. If that were not the case there would have to be enough Republican Senators voting “yes” to reach at least 50 votes in favor of passage.
With the Senate being so sharply divided, achieving that result is very questionable.
One of the uncertain Democrats is Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey. His state is home to many big-name pharmaceutical companies and he voted against a measure to allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices in the Senate Finance Committee in 2019.
As of yet the White House has not put out President Biden’s plans for drug pricing legislation, or how strongly they will push for it.
Lowering drug prices is one of the highest priorities of TSCL and we will be working very hard to get legislation passed this year.
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Legislation to Stop Medicare Cuts Passes in Senate
We have been reporting recently that unless Congress passes new legislation soon there will be significant cuts in Medicare payments to health care providers, such as doctors and hospitals. If that happens it is quite possible those patients covered by Medicare would likely face negative consequences with regard to their health care.
While the House of Representatives has passed legislation (H.R. 1868) to stop those cuts, the Senate has been a question mark.
The good news is that there was progress last week in moving the needed legislation forward. The Senate passed its own version of H.R.1868, which would postpone the cuts for another nine months.
However, it differs from the House version which means it must go back to the House to see if it will agree with the changes that were made.
The House passed H.R. 1868 by a vote of 246-175 on March 19, with 29 Republicans voting in favor of the bill.
The Senate amended and passed the bill 90-2 on March 25, with two Republican Senators voting against it.
If the bill is going to reach the President’s desk for his signature the House will have to agree to the changes the Senate made and pass it one more time. It may take a couple of weeks if that is to happen, however, because the House will not be back in session until the week of April 12.
This is not the end of the story, however. More legislation will be needed to stop additional Medicare payment cuts that are scheduled in 2022.
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New Social Security COLA Legislation Introduced
Last week Rep. Tim Walburg (R- Mich.) introduced a bill, H.R.2266, that would amend title II of the Social Security Act to provide for a minimum annual cost-of-living increase for Social Security benefits.
No further information about the bill is available at this point but as soon as it is TSCL will review it to determine whether we will support it.
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More Harmful Chemicals Found in Some Hand Sanitizers
Last year Americans were told that one of the ways to prevent being infected with Covid-19 is to wash hands frequently and for at least 20 seconds, and if that was not possible, use hand sanitizer. That resulted in a run on hand sanitizers and for awhile they were difficult to find.
Because of the huge demand various brands of sanitizers started appearing in stores that we had not seen before. Then we were alerted that some of those that were made in Mexico contained methanol, a form of alcohol that’s poisonous to humans, and we should not use them.
Now, another warning has been issued that some sanitizers made in both the U.S. and China contain benzene, a chemical known to cause blood cancers such as leukemias.
Hand sanitizer brands with bottles testing for the highest levels of benzene are:
|1. artnaturals||9. beauty concepts|
|2. Scentsational Soaps & Candles Inc.||10. PureLogic|
|3. huangjisoo||11. Miami Carry On|
|4. TrueWash||12. Natural Wunderz|
|5. The Creme Shop||13. clean-protect-sanitize|
|6. Star Wars Mandalorian||14. Puretize|
|7. Body Prescriptions||15. Hand Clean 100|
|8. Born Basic|
This does not mean you should stop using hand sanitizers when you cannot thoroughly wash your hands. It just means you would be wise to throw out any of the above listed hand sanitizers if you have them.
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In spite of the coronavirus emergency, TSCL is continuing its 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.