June 11, 2015

U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Representative:

On behalf of the millions of members and supporters of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, I urge you to vote against the procedurally and substantively flawed trade legislation (H.R. 1314, the “Trade Act of 2015”) the House is about to consider.

As amended by the Senate, H.R. 1314 would cut Medicare by extending Medicare sequestration of payments to providers and insurance companies until the second half of the fiscal year 2024 ($700 million) and change Medicare coverage and payment for dialysis services ($250 million). The Medicare cuts in H.R. 1314 would partially pay for the reauthorization of the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) Act. TAA provides displaced workers with job training and assistance, in the form of a tax credit, to help individuals who have lost health insurance to be able to purchase health insurance.

While the National Committee supports TAA, we strongly oppose cuts in Medicare to pay for non-Medicare programs. Although Representative Paul Ryan’s amendment to H.R. 1295, the “Trade Preferences Extension Act of 2015,” would remove the Medicare sequester from H.R. 1314, there is no guarantee that the Senate will approve this amendment. In addition, the Ryan amendment is flawed because it does not remove the Medicare dialysis provision from H.R. 1314.

We believe that this scheme amounts to a shell game which will force you and your colleagues to be on record with a vote to cut a program that is supported overwhelmingly by Americans of all political affiliations and age groups. What’s more, it sets a dangerous precedent of treating Medicare as a piggybank to pay for unrelated programs. Savings from changes in Medicare policy should be used to improve Medicare – not for other purposes.

The National Committee also opposes the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) provision in the bill because it would allow for expedited congressional consideration of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) that could restrict the ability for the United States and other countries to manage prescription drug and medical device prices in public programs.

The TPP would circumvent the democratic process by restricting the ability of Congress and state legislatures to manage the cost of prescription drugs and medical devices. TPA would allow for trade agreements negotiated behind closed doors to be enacted by Congress without the opportunity to amend harmful provisions. And, most critically, this legislation establishes the principle that social insurance programs may be cut to pay for non-related items – a principle to which we vehemently object. For these reasons, the National Committee urges you to vote against H.R. 1314.


Max Richtman