Dear [REDACTED],

Thank you for contacting me with your concerns regarding federal programs relating to our nation’s seniors. I appreciate you sharing your views with me.

It is imperative we stop governing from crisis to crisis, which threatens both our financial markets as well as the budgets of hardworking families. I have consistently stated that I would fight to prevent future government shutdowns and any potential default on the credit of the United States. As part of this commitment, I voted for H.R. 1314, the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015, which prevented a severe spike in Medicare Part B premiums by instituting spending reductions in other areas of government and adding new non-tax revenues. It solved some serious problems with the Social Security Disability Insurance Fund in that it closed loopholes, increased work incentives, put an end to rampant fraud, and ultimately prevented a 20% cut to beneficiaries.

It is critical our government take a serious look at the long-term fiscal prospects of Medicare and Social Security so that we can continue to provide our vulnerable populations with support they need and were promised. The sustainability of these two programs is critical to many Americans and we must take a thoughtful approach that recognizes this fact. We need to identify opportunities to adopt more preventive medicine and develop new technologies that improve quality of life and outcomes for patients. The mismanagement of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) by this administration has elicited strong criticisms from members of Congress including myself. As part of this commitment to our nation’s seniors, I have been vocal and signed onto bipartisan correspondence to Acting Administrator Andy Slavitt at CMS to protect Medicare beneficiaries and authored a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell advising the same. Cuts to already low reimbursements threaten to further limit choices for especially vulnerable populations and force more seniors to shoulder higher out-of-pocket costs. The current experiment is no exception to previous flawed attempts by CMS to reduce costs at the expense of access to quality care for our nation’s elderly.

With regard to payment to beneficiaries, it should be noted that cost-of-living adjustments (COLA) have been determined by changes in the Consumer Price Index (CPI-W) from the third quarter of the preceding year a COLA was determined to the third quarter of the current year. This has been the case since enactment of the COLA provisions as part of the 1972 Social Security Amendments, and with automatic annual COLAs beginning in 1975.

I understand that in the aftermath of the financial crisis, lower inflation rates for these programs have resulted in significantly lower COLAs for many, particularly seniors who have seen an average COLA of 1.1% since 2009 versus the average of 4.4% in the preceding three decades. Consequently, I will keep in mind your concerns as I continue to work with my colleagues to enact commonsense legislation that will support and preserve essential government programs for those who have paid into these programs, current beneficiaries, and future generations.

Thank you again for contacting me. It is a privilege to serve you in the Tenth District. I may also be contacted at my Sterling office at 703-404-6903, or my Washington, D.C. office at 202-225-5136. By visiting http://comstock.house.gov, you can sign up to receive my email newsletters and follow my efforts to serve you. You can also follow me on Facebook and Twitter for real-time updates on my activities in Congress and in the District. If I may ever be of service, please do not hesitate to contact me.



Sincerely,

Barbara Comstock
Member of Congress