Sebelius: Reform defunding could hit Medicare Advantage payments

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius claims that current GOP efforts to defund healthcare reform could have the unintended consequence of cutting off payments to Medicare Advantage plans, reports the Wall Street Journal and Politico.

Sebelius, in a letter to Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), observed that Republican efforts to add an amendment to a short-term spending bill to cut off funding for the Patient Protection and Affordable Act could supersede its intent to gradually reduce Medicare payments to providers on a gradual scale, leaving no guidance as to what payments should be made.

"This would seem to mean that payments to [Medicare Advantage] organizations would have to be suspended, risking a significant disruption in services to beneficiaries enrolled in Medicare Advantage," Sebelius wrote.

Medicare Advantage covers about 11 million Americans over the age of 65.

Republican leadership denied that the amendment would affect such payments, noting that Sebelius' agency has $1 billion in reform implementation funding that cannot be defunded.

"Medicare is a mandatory program, and therefore, seniors are still entitled to their full benefits under the law," said Sen. Orrin Hatch (D-Utah), the ranking Republican on the Finance Committee.

For more information:
- read the Wall Street Journal article
- check out the Politico article