Legislative Update Aprilmay 2013
The jury is still out on value-based health systems, and whether they can save any significant amount of money remains to be seen. The Congressional Budget Office issued a recent report outlining a number of issues and unintended consequences such as providing an incentive for providers to improve their "quality rankings" by avoiding sicker patients. Critics say that the system places a new burden on primary care doctors that would potentially punish providers financially for patients' bad health habits and behaviors. .Now the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has told hospitals they can't hide their prices from web searches. .In the past five years the annual adjustment has averaged just 1.4 percent — less than half the 3 percent average of the prior two decades starting in 1990. Retirees and disabled Social Security recipients are reporting that the COLA is doing a poor job of what it's intended to do — protecting the buying power of their Social Security benefits. According to an annual survey performed by TSCL, Social Security benefits have lost 31 percent of their buying power since 2000. … Continued
Category Legislative News Page 55
Click here for more information about our legislative agenda. There you can also sign a petition to your Members of Congress, view bills that have been recently introduced in the House and Senate, and stay updated with the latest news on Capitol Hill. .Many are wary at this point in time about the likelihood of reaching a deal before the December 31st deadline. On Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (NV) predicted that the Fiscal Cliff would hit as scheduled, saying, "It looks like that's where we're headed." Any hope of reaching a deal now lies in the hands of Majority Leader Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (KY). .It remains to be seen if Congress will go along with this plan. … Continued
Medicare is currently prohibited from covering most hearing, vision, and dental services, even though millions of seniors are afflicted with age-related hearing loss, low vision, and poor oral health. When left untreated, these conditions often result in serious injuries and complications. What do you feel should be done about this? .Some Members of Congress are calling for Congress to strike a deficit reduction deal of their own. Although gridlock may occur and would hardly be surprising, TSCL remains adamantly opposed to a key proposal that would change the cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) calculation. The proposal, which would affect not only future retirees but ALL retirees, would switch to a more slowly-growing consumer price index known as the "chained" CPI to calculate the annual COLA. This proposal that would reduce the lifetime Social Security income of seniors by potentially tens of thousands of dollars is one of the few areas of agreement between both Democrat and Republican negotiators. TSCL also strongly opposes proposals that would increase what seniors have to pay for the Medicare benefits. .Many in Congress have been outspoken about the potential cuts. Last week, a bipartisan group of forty Senators sent a letter to CMS urging administrators to maintain current payment rates in order to protect seniors from potential benefit disruptions. TSCL has also been expressing its concerns to lawmakers, and we will continue to keep a close eye on the issue in the coming weeks. For updates, visit the Legislative News section of our website. .By the end of this year, lawmakers could enact legislation that would trim Social Security benefits, threaten access to care for Medicare beneficiaries, and make millions of immigrants eligible for benefits based on illegal work. With so much currently at stake, it is more important than ever for seniors to learn about – and possibly challenge – the positions of their elected officials. .Rep. DeFazio's No Loopholes in Social Security Taxes Act (H.R. 1029) also gained new cosponsors this week. Five Members of Congress signed on, bringing the total up to twenty-five. The new cosponsors are: Reps. Robert Scott (VA-3), Collin Peterson (MN-7), Grace Napolitano (CA-32), William Enyart (IL-12), and Barbara Lee (CA-13). The bill, if signed into law, would subject all income over 0,000 to the Social Security payroll tax. Currently, the payroll tax is capped at 3,700 and no income over that amount is taxed. Rep. DeFazio's bill would reportedly add at least fifty years to the solvency of the Trust Fund responsibly, without reducing benefits for seniors. .Deficit hawks on Capitol Hill agree that the current inflation index is inaccurate, but instead of adopting a method that actually measures seniors' spending, many have been advocating for an index that would further trim COLAs. The "chained" CPI has been lauded by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle – including President Obama – as a small technical correction that would factor in the substitution that occurs when the prices of certain goods increase. However, since medical care – a major expense for seniors – cannot be substituted for something cheaper, this index would unfairly affect them. After ten years, adopting the "chained" CPI would result in an monthly benefit cut for the average retired couple, and that loss would continue to compound. ."If you want to save money on health and prescription drug plans, it's more important than ever to compare and switch now during the fall Medicare Open Enrollment period which ends December 7th," Cates says. Free, unbiased, one – on – one counseling is available through State Health Insurance Assistance Programs (SHIP), many of which operate through local agencies on aging. .TSCL is very disappointed to hear President Trump continue to demand a payroll tax cut before he will agree to any new legislation dealing with the effects of the pandemic emergency. .Higher long-term costs for Social Security and Medicare: According to the CBO, people approved for work authorization and Social Security numbers, through policies like Obama's executive action, would be eligible to receive Social Security and Medicare benefits on the basis of their work history. Neither program requires citizenship in order to file a claim. While taxes flowing into the program are estimated to boost the programs in the short term, the CBO noted that periods of unauthorized employment count toward eligibility for Social Security if individuals receive authorization to work. According to the CBO,"The ability or inability of a formerly unauthorized worker to apply those employment periods to future benefits would affect federal outlays for the program. In addition… people who previously paid Social Security taxes under a stolen or fake Social Security number might be able to claim benefits in the future…"