AHIP, MedPAC send mixed signals on Medicare Advantage cuts

The Medicare Advantage debate heats up as the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) and insurers' corporate filings dispute claims AHIP made in recent ads about proposed payment cuts, according to USA TODAY

AHIP has warned that a 5.9 percent payment could jeopardize the sustainability of Medicare Advantage organizations and lead to benefit cuts, higher premiums, plans exiting local markets, provider network changes and small enrollment.

In a series of TV ads from an AHIP subsidiary, the insurance lobby claimed the Obama administration wants to cut too much, too soon from the Medicare Advantage program. Meanwhile, Medicare records and corporate filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission show insurers have gained hundreds of thousands of enrollees since the Affordable Care Act passed, USA Today noted.

"We're seeing more enrollment with the same access," MedPAC Executive Director Mark Miller told USA Today. "Their own data shows that enrollment is going to go up."

Insurers selling Medicare Advantage plans have boosted their membership by 8.9 percent to 15.9 million enrollees, up from 14.6 million in 2013, according to Avalere Health, which analyzed enrollment data through Jan. 10.

Adding to the war on words, the House Energy and Commerce Committee last week called AHIP's claims of double-digit cuts over two years "exaggerated," adding that independent analysts still hold an "optimistic" view of the Medicare Advantage program, USA Today noted.

In response, AHIP defended its advertising claims, citing a Kaiser Family Foundation report that found about 526,000 of 2013 Medicare Advantage enrollees won't have their existing plan available this year and a Wall Street Journal report that roughly one in 20 enrollees had their old coverage canceled.

AHIP also pointed to a recent op-ed by Kavita Patel, M.D., of the Brookings Institution, and National Coalition on Health Care CEO John Rother, who said the new cuts would amount to nearly 15 percent in payement reductions over two years.

For more:
- read the USA Today article
- here's the AHIP blog post