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Medicare Advantage Cuts Expected

Christopher Cheney, for HealthLeaders Media, April 4, 2014

"History often repeats itself, and that reality is a daunting one for seniors in Medicare Advantage," Ignagni wrote. "While some have argued that cuts to the popular program would do nothing to jeopardize seniors' health benefits, precedent tells us this isn't true. In 1997, Congress passed substantial cuts to Medicare Advantage, then known as Medicare+Choice. As a result, between 1999 and 2003, nearly 2.4 million seniors lost their health care coverage. That's a dangerous precedent."

Hospitals have also been lobbying against cuts to MA. On March 17, a coalition of hospitals, businesses, and hospital associations began airing a television ad blasting the proposed cuts. In a statement announcing the ad, the Coalition to Protect America's Health Care said it had launched "a major new advertising campaign" that included print ads at two Metro stations in Washington, DC.

There are more than 15 million seniors enrolled in MA health plans. About 40 percent of MA beneficiaries have annual incomes below $20,000 and are cost-sensitive to changes in their healthcare expenditures, according to AHIP.

Soon after the Feb. 21 release of the proposed 2015 Medicare payment rates and rule changes, a CMS spokesman defended the agency's plans for 2015. "Since the Affordable Care Act became law, enrollment in MA has increased nearly 33 percent while premiums have fallen by 10, and premiums for Part B have remained flat. We believe that beneficiaries will have a wide array of high quality, low cost options in 2015 while we make certain that plans are providing value to Medicare and taxpayers," he said.

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