With Congress set to reconvene for the fall session, Congressman Murphy has been working with the Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee to call up his SMART Act for a vote. The bill is another legislative effort undertaken by Murphy to strengthen and save Medicare.
A bipartisan bill with 132 co-sponsors, The Strengthening Medicare And Repaying Taxpayer Act (SMART Act) recoups billions of Medicare dollars owed by insurance companies to the Medicare Trust Fund, which pays seniors' hospital bills. Insurers, retailers, and third parties must repay Medicare for any medical bills if their negligence caused an injury to a senior citizen. But the current system is complicated and riddled with bureaucratic delays.
The SMART Act requires that Medicare provide the parties with accurate information about the total cost of medical bills within 65 days of when the parties announce a settlement is near. Simply put, this legislation aims to break down bureaucratic hurdles that prevent Medicare and private insurers from closing out medical billing cases in a timely manner. Without coming to a settlement, Medicare cannot recoup the money and beneficiaries are often left footing the bill. Industry experts have suggested that Murphy's bill could collect between $1 billion and $4 billion annually, while saving the Medicare agency countless hours of staff work pursuing claims of little or no value.
Murphy's bill was the focus of an Energy and Commerce Committee Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Hearing last June. At the hearing, members learned the impact that extremely long delays have on the financial stability of Medicare and on beneficiaries who are owed settlements due to medical malpractice, liability or workers compensation. Testimony from expert witnesses revealed from those who have experienced first-hand the problems that arise with extensive delays in the system, including a compelling argument from Pittsburgh attorney Jason Matzus, who represents Medicare beneficiaries. To read more about the hearing, go to: http://murphy.house.gov/s2011/medicare-failing-to-collect-hundreds-of-millions/.
"Hundreds of millions of dollars waiting to be sent to the Medicare Trust Fund continue to be blocked by a complicated system of arcane rules," said Rep. Murphy. "We have an opportunity with the SMART Act to be responsible stewards of the Trust Fund by breaking down these barriers to get more dollars into Medicare and help shore up system. My legislation seeks to protect the Medicare benefits that our senior's have earned--and I look forward to its passage in the House this fall."
The Energy & Commerce Committee is expected to take up Murphy's SMART Act legislation within the next few weeks.
Along with the SMART Act, Rep. Murphy introduced legislation called the Social Security and Medicare Protection Act (H.R. 1630) to stop Congress and the Administration from raiding the Social Security and Medicare Trust Funds to spend on earmarks and other government programs. In the past, the federal government attempted to cover overspending by "borrowing" trillions from the Social Security Trust Fund. Murphy's bill would ensure that the money senior's pay into their entitlement programs are not used for any other purpose.
Recently signed into law is Murphy's legislation to help expand access to cost effective and life saving generic prescription drugs. Most seniors rely on a daily pharmaceutical regimen, but the rising cost of medications can put life-saving therapies out of reach. To ensure seniors have access to these critical medications, Murphy's authored legislation to establishes the first-ever generic drug user fee program so that generic drug companies, and not the taxpayers, bear the $300 million annual cost of application review and foreign factory inspections. The new law puts foreign factories under the same rigorous inspection regime as domestic plants as well and is expected to reduce healthcare costs by hundreds of millions of dollars for senior citizens who could save $1,000 annually on less expensive but just as effective generic drugs. The Generic Drug and Biosimilar User Fee Act (H.R. 3988), became law in July.
To share your thoughts with Congressman Murphy on Medicare and Social Security, please go to: https://murphyforms.house.gov/index.cfm?sectionid=174.
Murphy Joins Hydrocephalus Caucus
Hydrocephalus is a neurological condition caused by abnormal buildup of cerebrospinal fluids (CSF) in the ventricles of the brain. The condition can occur at any age, affects an estimated one million Americans, and in some cases, can cause death. One out of every 500 babies is born with hydrocephalus in the US, and is the leading cause of brain injury in children. Instances of hydrocephalus are also being found in an increasing number of veterans who develop the condition as a result of brain injuries suffered on the battlefield. Unfortunately, there is no known single cause of hydrocephalus and there have not been significant advancements for treatment over the last fifty years.
Jenna Sciulli, a resident of Chartiers Township in Washington County, has been working to raise awareness about the issue both locally and nationally. Sciulli, who serves as Pennsylvania State Director of the Pediatric Hydrocephalus Foundation (PHF) recently visited Rep. Murphy's office to discuss the challenges facing parents of children with this condition. She knows first-hand what it's like because her five-year-old son has hydrocephalus and must attend speech and physical therapy every week.
"I commend Mrs. Sciulli for her tireless efforts to educate lawmakers and the public about this healthcare issue," said Congressman Murphy, who serves as co-chair of the Doctors Caucus in the House. "Thanks to her dedication, I am joining the Congressional Hydrocephalus Caucus to help inform members of Congress about important research into hydrocephalus diagnosis and treatment, so we may save lives and one day find a cure."
Mrs. Sciulli's work will soon be recognized locally when Washington County designates Sept. 22 as Hydrocephalus Day. On Sunday, September 23rd, her organization will host a bake sale and fundraiser at the Country Angels Tea & Coffee Shop, which is located at The Shoppes at Quail Acres on route 19 one-half mile east of the Tanger Outlets. For more information go to: http://www.quailacres.com/Content.aspx?PageId=37.
To share your thoughts with Congressman Murphy on the Hydrocephalus Caucus, please go to: https://murphyforms.house.gov/index.cfm?sectionid=174.
Local VFW Unveils New Memorial Wall
In honor of the servicemen and women who have served overseas since 1990 largely as part of efforts to combat terrorism and secure peace in the Middle East, the VFW Post 764 in McMurray held a dedication ceremony for a Memorial Wall commemorating those serving in conflicts in Southwest Asia.
The ceremony began with the honor guard posting the colors, as well as the POW/MIA flag. Commander of the post, Scott Huenefeld gave remarks, as did past post commander Dennis Riznow, whose wife coordinated the design of the wall. The Memorial Wall is covered with framed maps, photographs and mementos from all branches of the Armed Forces Desert Storm, Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. The dedication ceremony was attended by local residents and VFW members including post's leadership who have been looking for ways to honor younger service members and bring them into the local veteran community. In addition to helping with veterans care and outreach, VFW Post 764 raises funds and works with various local community clubs and charities from the Girl Scouts to child advocacy groups.
As part of the ceremony, Murphy presented a formal congressional statement, which read in part:
"In the last decade, our soldiers have had to travel to the farthest reaches of the world facing an enemy that oftentimes wore no uniform, called no country home, and were motivated by one horrific goal: to terrorize and weaken America....We have to be continuously vigilant and strong in our response. Thankfully, America has families like those here today who are willing to serve and protect us. Our Armed Forces have shown they are not just equal, but superior to what is asked of them. Remember the words said shortly after 9-11 by President Bush: We will not waver, we will not tire, we will not falter and we will not fail.
"And our Armed Forces have not. Their battle is our battle. As they stand on watchful alert, we must be on the alert. As they fight, we must be there to show our support to their fight. Their struggles give us the blessings we enjoy as a free, prosperous, and sovereign nation. As they go to distant battlefields far from home and family, we must be there to comfort and support their families."
In addition to breaking ground on the new Commissary this month, Rep. Murphy has also recently been working to permanently save the 911th Airlift Wing in Moon Township. A week ago, Congressman Murphy joined Pennsylvania Auditor General Jack Wagner conducted an on-site fact-finding review at the base as part of their efforts deliver to the Pentagon an accurate cost-benefit analysis of the base's unique strategic value and its impact on the local economy.
To learn more about Murphy's efforts on behalf of our region's veterans and service members, visit http://Murphy.house.gov/911th
To share your thoughts with Congressman Murphy on Veterans issues, please go to: https://murphyforms.house.gov/index.cfm?sectionid=174.
New Fuel Economy Rule Poses Challenge to SWPA Steel Industry
Southwestern Pennsylvania's steel industry is a critical supplier to domestic automakers. Behind construction, automotive is the steel sector's second largest market. Steel accounts for sixty percent of a vehicle's weight, and as automakers seek to comply with new fuel economy mandates from the White House, steelmakers must find ways to stay competitive with lighter-weight materials like aluminum.
The Environmental Protection Agency and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration finalized a new regulation Tuesday to increase fuel economy standards to the equivalent of 54.5 miles per gallon for new vehicles by 2025. This new mandate increases from the miles-per-gallon standard from 35.5 set for 2016.
According to the National Automobile Dealers Association, the new regulation will increase per vehicle costs by $3,000. To comply with the new standards, automakers are already working on ways to reduce vehicle weight, but a study by the Brookings Institution suggests making changes that lighten the weight of road vehicles could lead to more fatalities from traffic accidents. For example, the study revealed a 500-lb weight reduction would increase annual highway fatalities between 2,200 and 3,900, and result in nearly 19,500 additional serious injuries. As automakers work on engineering and design problems, advanced modeling and simulation using high performance computers will be necessary to quickly develop entirely new materials to meet the standards.
Additionally, the EPA's new standards don't take into account the fact that the rule increases aluminum consumption, which has higher air emissions than steel, essentially diminishing the perceived environmental impact of the change. As Chairman of the Congressional Steel Caucus, Congressman Murphy is reviewing whether the new mileage standards unfairly pick winners and losers in auto design while leading to more traffic deaths.
To share your views on the new fuel economy standards, please go to: https://murphyforms.house.gov/index.cfm?sectionid=174.
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