Stop Cuts to Medicare Advantage

Stop Cuts to Medicare Advantage

The president is celebrating the recent announcement that 7 million people have signed up for Obamacare. Who those people are, how many were actually uninsured previously, and how many enrolled because they'd had good policies canceled -- and now have higher costs and less extensive doctor networks on the exchanges -- are among the remaining unanswered questions.

The president thinks this is a win. Yet poll after poll after poll flies in the face of this delusion. And today, the Obamacare wrecking ball is swinging around again, targeting the nearly 16 million seniors who depend on Medicare Advantage for their health care.

The popular, privately administered Medicare Advantage program has seen strong annual growth in enrollment, and it now accounts for nearly one in three seniors on Medicare nationwide. In my home state of Minnesota, 47 percent of seniors are on Medicare Advantage. In addition to the safety net of out-of-pocket cost limits, Medicare Advantage often provides seniors with prescription drug, dental, vision and other needed benefits.

Unfortunately, it's exactly the kind of successful health-care program that Obamacare aims to destroy. According to the Congressional Budget Office (PDF), Obamacare requires direct cuts to Medicare Advantage of at least $156 billion over ten years to help pay for the health-care law. Some of these cuts have already gone into effect, and in February the Obama administration announced plans to finalize more; the details will be released today, and the cuts will go into effect in 2015. It's expected that these cuts will slash the program's payment rates by 3 to 6 percent.

What does this mean for America's seniors? Here are some ill effects Medicare Advantage enrollees are seeing thanks to the cuts that have already gone into effect:

● an average $464 increase in limits on out-of pocket costs this year

● the cancellation of 17 percent of Medicare Advantage Plans last year

● thousands of doctors no longer able to see Medicare Advantage patients

Unfortunately, this is only the beginning, as the Obama administration and its health-care law will bring round after round of cuts to Medicare Advantage. Cuts to seniors' health care is a strong reminder of how devastating Obamacare is for America and why we must fight to protect Americans from it.

It's not just Republicans who are concerned about the dramatic impact the president's cuts will have on senior citizens. Analysts have long warned of the consequences of Medicare Advantage cuts, noting, as the Associated Press paraphrased one expert, that "big cuts could wipe out smaller competitors and leave customers with less choice."

It doesn't have to be this way. Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle can step in and stop the president from raiding Medicare Advantage and further destroying a government program that actually works and provides much-needed care to seniors in the United States.

What has been lost in this entire Obamacare mess is the question of whom the president is ultimately trying to help with this law. Almost by definition, he isn't trying to help the Americans who are negatively impacted by Obamacare.

And his decision to unilaterally delay or not enforce provisions of Obamacare that Democrats in the House and Senate voted for, isn't intended to help the American people. It's intended to help Democrats in the upcoming midterm elections.

Rarely has such cynicism pervaded politics and policy in America. And rarely has the intersection between bad policy and bad politics collided with such intensity. If the administration were truly concerned about the negative impact of Obamacare on millions of America's senior citizens, it would work with Congress to stop gutting Medicare Advantage.

Norm Coleman is a former U.S. senator for Minnesota and current chairman of the American Action Network, a 501(c)(4) center-right issue-advocacy organization. AAN has spent $1 million this year opposing proposed Medicare Advantage cuts. 

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