With President Joe Biden reportedly poised to make more cuts to health care plans for seniors in the coming weeks, Republicans remain “shockingly quiet” about the damage already done.
That is according to Drew Johnson, a senior fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research, who laid out the details of the coming threats to Medicare Advantage plans as seniors will allegedly see more cuts in benefits thanks to the Biden administration.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) will reportedly be rolling out a “rate notice” in the next weeks that would add to the “stealthy” cuts already made in 2023, according to Johnson who wondered in an opinion piece published by Fox News Wednesday why Republican lawmakers have not been “screaming” about it.
“Despite their concern about the massive national debt, the size of the deficit and the role traditional entitlements play in those issues, many of my fellow Republicans were shockingly quiet about the attacks on Medicare Advantage last year,” he wrote.
“This is odd because when Barack Obama was president, basically every GOP elected official, candidate and grassroots activist screamed to the heavens about ObamaCare’s Medicare cuts, effected through slashing Medicare Advantage,” Johnson added.
“We should be screaming once again. With conservatives likely to be hammered this election year for supposedly wanting to cut entitlements, we should be setting the record straight,” he argued. “It’s the Biden administration, not Republicans, which is cutting Medicare Advantage benefits and threatening high-quality health care for seniors while making the debt even bigger in the process.”
According to the Medicare.gov website: “Medicare health plans are another way to get your Part A (Hospital Insurance) and Part B (Medical Insurance) benefits instead of Original Medicare. There are several types of plans to choose from, including Medicare Advantage Plans (Part C).”
Medicare-approved private companies typically offer these health plans and are bound by rules set by Medicare.
The plans purportedly deliver better value for the healthcare recipients so last year, the Biden administration “worked hard to keep the cuts on the down low,” according to Johnson who highlighted some of those changes along with the tricks used to mask their actual intent.
“The first troubling trick was CMS touting a growth rate for Medicare Advantage of 2.28%, which sounds like an increase, not a cut,” he wrote, noting that “this growth rate didn’t keep up with rising costs.”
“That second and third slick trick – boring the public to tears and throwing out the word ‘reform’ – insulated them from criticism you’d usually expect from, well, almost everyone,” Johnson wrote.
In addition, 2,000 diagnosis codes were eliminated by CMS “which meant less coverage for seniors in Medicare Advantage plans than conventional Medicare fee-for-service.”
“CMS also instituted an absurd 48-hour mandatory waiting period for seniors hoping to chat with agents or brokers to discuss insurance options,” Johnson wrote. “Then CMS famously messed around with Medicare Advantage’s star rating program. Insurers say the changes made it incredibly difficult for plans to receive high star ratings.”
In the coming months and into 2025, this could mean “$600 million to $700 million” getting drained out of Medicare Advantage and making it less of a viable plan for seniors.
But there are plenty of arguments being made against the plans, with many expressing frustration with being “trapped” and unable to switch back to traditional Medicare.
1/Speaking of major issues w/ #MedicareAdvantage this piece describes a @BrownUniversity study showing after 5 yrs ~50% change to another MA plan or traditional Medicare + major issues w/ changing plans are noted. Older Americans Say They Feel Trapped in Medicare Advantage Plans…
— Ed Gaines (@EdGainesIII) January 23, 2024
Greedy private health insurers that offer Medicare Advantage plans prey on taxpayers and deny care to seniors to maximize profits. Last year, I urged @CMSgov to boost oversight and penalties for insurers that improperly deny coverage. Now, new rules will protect patients. https://t.co/E5ofrlxc4u
— Rep. Katie Porter (@RepKatiePorter) January 22, 2024
GOP lawmakers have spoken out on the issue within debates about passing the budget and government spending bills.
“Joe Biden is trying to gut Medicare benefits. Seniors can’t trust Democrats to protect Medicare,” warned National Republican Senatorial Committee spokesman Philip Letsou last year.
“It’s President Biden who is proposing to cut Medicare Advantage, a program used by almost 4 in 10 Arkansas seniors,” Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark. posted on social media last year.
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