September 8, 2021
Committee on Ways and Means
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515
On behalf of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare’s millions of members and supporters, I am writing to urge you and your colleagues on the Committee on Ways and Means to vote for Chairman Richard Neal’s Budget Reconciliation legislation that will be marked up tomorrow, Thursday, September 9th. This legislation prioritizes the needs of older Americans and people with disabilities by:
- Adding long overdue hearing, dental and vision coverage to Medicare; and
- Creating a paid leave program that enables family members to care for elderly and disabled loved ones without imposing an additional workload burden on the underfunded Social Security Administration (SSA).
Fill the Gaps in Medicare Coverage
Providing basic dental, hearing and vision coverage will fill a gap in Medicare coverage that will help to keep seniors and people with disabilities out of hospitals and nursing homes, lengthen their lifespans and improve their quality of life.
Just to provide one example, there is growing evidence being gathered by Dr. Frank Lin’s research through the National Institutes of Health that untreated hearing loss accelerates cognitive decline including dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Currently, Medicare and Medicaid spending to treat people with Alzheimer’s is $305 billion a year. By 2050, that cost is expected to jump to $777 billion a year. But if a higher percentage of seniors with age-related hearing loss had hearing aids, the skyrocketing cost of treating people with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia could drop significantly.
Create a Paid Leave Program Without Overburdening the Underfunded SSA
We strongly support provisions in Chairman Neal’s bill which would have the Department of Treasury – instead of the Social Security Administration (SSA) — administer paid leave. SSA currently has a backlog with unopened mail piled up and extensive delays in the Social Security Disability Insurance program. Under their current workload and operating budget, it will take them a very long time to clear out their backlogs. Imposing a new, complex and expensive program to administer at the same time will simply stretch their resources too thin to accomplish any of their goals. The last time SSA was required to administer a new program – without sufficient resources – it took a decade and additional legislation for SSA to recover. The National Committee is committed to a successful paid leave program that covers caregivers, and we believe the best opportunity for it to be successful is not to ask SSA to administer the program. That’s why we support the paid leave provisions of Chairman Neal’s bill.
While we know that the bill being marked up on September 9th is just one part of the Committee on Ways and Means’ budget reconciliation legislation, we urge you to ensure that subsequent bills include provisions to:
- Allow Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices and additional robust drug price reforms that were included in the House-passed H.R. 3;
- Stop overpayments to private Medicare Advantage plans;
- Invest in home- and community-based services that enable seniors and people with disabilities to stay in their homes;
- Expand low-income protections that help vulnerable beneficiaries access their existing and new Medicare benefits; and
- Improve the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program for the eight million low-income seniors and people with disabilities — including over a million children — who depend on it for basic income support.
We acknowledge that some of these proposals are partly or fully under the jurisdiction of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.
As a first step to improving the health and economic security and caregiving of all Americans, the National Committee urges you to vote for Chairman Neal’s Budget Reconciliation legislation.
President and CEO