AMAC Vice President for Government Relations Andy Mangione attended the Energy and Commerce Committee’s Health Subcommittee hearing regarding Medicare Advantage this week on Capitol Hill. The hearing focused on the effect ObamaCare will have on beneficiaries who receive their Medicare benefits through Part C, more commonly known as Medicare Advantage (MA).
The Republicans currently have a majority in the House of Representatives and can therefore call more witnesses to testify. Democrats, who are in the minority in House, are also allowed to call witnesses. For this hearing, a total of five witnesses were asked to testify; three by Republicans and two invited by Democrats.
Twenty-nine percent, or 15 million, of Medicare-eligible Americans currently receive their benefit via Medicare Advantage plans. This is a 30% increase in participation since 2010 and is a testament to the program’s growing popularity. Witnesses cited data that shows that Medicare Advantage participants experienced fewer hospital admissions, readmissions and are generally healthier than those beneficiaries on Original Medicare due to the coordinated care methods and disease management programs that are the hallmark of MA. Medicare Advantage members spend 20 % less time in hospitals versus Original Medicare beneficiaries. A majority witness from the advisory firm Boston Consulting shared data that showed Medicare Advantage beneficiaries had lower mortality (death) rates than those utilizing Original Medicare.
However, ObamaCare cuts $308 billion directly from Medicare Advantage, and with many of them slated to start in 2014, tough questions regarding the reality of these reductions were asked by Subcommittee members. Witnesses cited Kaiser Family Foundation statistics forecasting that hundreds of thousands of Medicare Advantage beneficiaries will lose their plans next year. Testimony also revealed that because of changes to provider networks as a result of ObamaCare, thousands of beneficiaries will not be able to maintain plans that they signed up for as recently as this year. Testimony from witnesses for the majority dispelled minority testimony which stated that cuts to Medicare Advantage would drive down overall costs for the Medicare Program. Instead they argued that the money cut from MA would go to pay for the Medicaid expansion and health insurance subsidies which are both fundamental apparatuses of ObamaCare.
Minority witnesses tried to persuade Subcommittee members that ObamaCare actually “prolongs the life” of Medicare Advantage, but majority witnesses cited numerous facts that the reality of the law reduces choice, destroys provider networks, drives up costs for beneficiaries and dilutes the MA benefit as a whole.
The hearing was an eye opening experience as to the effect ObamaCare has on seniors and their health. Our support of the Cassidy-Barrow initiative, (please see the details at www.amac.us) which fights to keep MA fully funded, is one way AMAC fights to expose the consequences of this law and diminish its negative outcomes.