POLITICS: PennAve

House Dems push back on administration's proposed Medicare Advantage cuts

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Politics,Congress,Barack Obama,House of Representatives,Health Care,Medicare and Medicaid,Entitlements,PennAve,Sean Lengell,House Democrats

Several House Democrats have urged the Obama administration to reconsider proposed cuts to Medicare Advantage plans.

While typically it's Republicans who rail against White House health care provisions, more than a half-dozen Democrats took to the House floor Thursday to complain about proposed cuts they said would lead to reduced services and care for seniors.

"At this time of major transition in our nation's health care industry, it is critical that seniors enrolled in traditional Medicare and Medicare Advantage can keep the coverage on which they depend," said Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Fla. "Unfortunately, proposed cuts to Medicare Advantage are putting these important benefits at risk.

"This is a very serious situation across the country."

Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., said the cuts, if enacted, will "decrease choice, create uncertainty and undermine access to care for our seniors."

She added that they could have the unintended and costly consequence of putting seniors at risk of being placed in hospices, nursing homes and other "institutions" rather than staying in their homes.

The administration in February proposed new payment rates for private insurers that administer Medicare Advantage plans. America's Health Insurance Plans, an industry lobby group, said payments would be cut 5.9 percent in 2015 if the proposed rates are approved.

The group adds that such a move also would lead to seniors paying $35 to $75 more in their monthly Medicare Advantage premiums.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is expected to announce its final decision on cuts next week.

Republicans also have opposed the proposed cuts. But the tone and tenor of Democrats' complaints highlight party members' growing willingness to critique President Obama's health care initiatives.

"Even during a time of great partisanship and gridlock in Congress, there is a growing bipartisan coalition calling on the administration to keep the rates flat for this year, putting the well-being of our nation's seniors before party lines," Murphy said.

Rep. John Barrow, D-Ga., said he has urged the administration "to take a long, hard look at how these cuts would affect everyday lives of our seniors."

"This is an issue that affects folks in every part of this country, and in my view, is one of the most important issues facing seniors in our communities today," he said. "If the goal here is to save money, there are better, more suitable ways to do it than on the backs of our seniors."

Nearly 16 million people, approximately 30 percent of Medicare beneficiaries, use Medicare Advantage plans, according to the Associated Press. While they often restrict choice, the plans can offer lower out-of-pocket costs and broader benefits.

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