Wednesday, February 19, 2014

More Democrats Care about Protecting Medicare Advantage Than About Protecting Medicare

As you may remember, on Friday, Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and fifteen Democratic senators sent a letter to the White House urging the president not to include any cuts to Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid in his budget. Many of us were disappointed or troubled by the fact that only 16 senators had signed onto the letter, especially as it had been circulating for a month.

Well, that same day, 19 Democrats joined a group of 21 Republicans to protest cuts in Medicare advantage in a letter to Marilynn Tavenner, Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
We write to raise serious concerns about the Medicare Advantage (MA) 2015 rate notice and the impact further cuts may have on the millions of individuals enrolled in the program. We are strongly committed to preserving the high quality health plan choices and benefits that our constituents receive through the MA program. Given the impact that payment policies could have on our constituents, we ask that you prioritize beneficiaries’ experience and minimize disruption in maintaining payment levels for 2015.
That's right: More Democrats care about cuts to Medicare Advantage than about cuts to Medicare itself.

Medicare Advantage plans are private plans run by insurance companies but paid for by Medicare. They began as Medicare+Choice plans in 1997 but were renamed Medicare Advantage in 2003. MA plans are notoriously inefficient because they generate corporate profits rather than more efficient care. Payments to MA plans average about 14 percent more than the cost of providing the same care to beneficiaries in traditional Medicare. Overpayments in 2009 alone totaled $11.4 billion. The Affordable Care Act sought to address this problem by reducing the subsidies to these private plans, shoring up Medicare itself and saving money to fund other aspects of health care reform.

This reduction of overpayments, you may remember, was one of the Republicans' favorite talking points in 2010 and 2012. Republicans, who themselves wanted to destroy the Medicare program by turning it all over to MA-style vouchers, lambasted Obama and the Democrats for "cutting Medicare" and were able to boost their numbers with seniors because of such deceptive messaging.

Now back to our 40 senators who are very concerned about the health of the health insurance companies.

Here are the 21 Republicans:
Lamar Alexander (R-TN)
Kelly Ayotte (R-NH)
Roy Blunt (R-MO)
John Boozman (R-AR)
Richard Burr (R-NC)
Dan Coats (R-IN)
Saxby Chambliss (R-GA)
Thad Cochran (R-MS)
John Cornyn (R-TX)
Mike Crapo (R-ID)
Mike Enzi (R-WY)
Lindsey Graham (R-SC)
Chuck Grassley (R-IA)
Dean Heller (R-NV)
Jim Inhofe (R-OK)
Johnny Isakson (R-GA)
Rob Portman (R-OH)
Pat Roberts (R-KS)
Marco Rubio (R-FL)
Tim Scott (R-SC)
John Thune (R-SD)

And here are the 19 Democrats:
Michael Bennet (D-CO)
Maria Cantwell (D-WA)
Bob Casey (D-PA)
Joe Donnelly (D-IN)
Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)
Kay Hagan (D-NC)
Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND)
Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)
Mary Landrieu (D-LA)
Joe Manchin (D-WV)
Ed Markey (D-MA)
Jeff Merkley (D-OR)
Bill Nelson (D-FL)
Mark Pryor (D-AR)
Chuck Schumer (D-NY)
Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH)
Mark Udall (D-CO)
Tom Udall (D-NM)
Mark Warner (D-VA)

Of these 19 Democrats, only three--Kirsten Gillibrand, Ed Markey, and Jeff Merkley--signed Sanders's letter as well.

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