Republicans still blast Medicare Advantage cuts

Insurers and Republican lawmakers earned a victory last month when the Obama administration reversed course on its planned Medicare Advantage cuts. But that isn't stopping the GOP from trying to block the cuts altogether.

In a letter sent to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services on Monday, several Republican members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee said some insurers will still face payment reductions.

"Overall, we are concerned that the cuts to Medicare Advantage plans will result in higher costs and fewer choices for millions of seniors who currently enjoy high-quality, affordable plans, and the possibility that some will lose their current plan altogether," Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and five other GOP members wrote.

CMS decided to increase the Medicare Advantage payment rate by 0.4 percent after it proposed in February to lower rates for plans, FierceHealthPayer previously reported. Despite the reversal, some insurers like Aetna and Humana have still predicted Medicare Advantage payments will drop by as much as 4 percent.

"So far, the full brunt of [the Affordable Care Act's] cuts to Medicare Advantage has yet to be felt," the lawmakers wrote. "But even if, each year in the future, CMS utilizes every possible legal, regulatory and administrative measure at its disposal, millions of seniors will be negatively affected."

The GOP members asked CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner to estimate how many Medicare Advantage members could soon see higher out-of-pocket costs, have fewer plan choices or lose their plan entirely in 2017.

Upton also asked Tavenner to provide a plan for ensuring that the cuts don't disproportionally harm minority seniors with Medicare Advantage coverage. Tavenner also should disclose what new government programs will get the roughly $300 billion gained from the Medicare Advantage cuts, the GOP members said.

To learn more:
- here's the GOP letter (.pdf)