The Save Medicare Act argues that Medicare Advantage (MA) plans are deceptive and overcharge seniors for profit.
MA plans are under fire once again, this time with the introduction of new legislation that's aiming to take 'Medicare' out of the name.
The Save Medicare Act, sponsored by representatives Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) and Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), arrives just ahead of the open enrolment period, running from October 15 to December 7.
The bill would prohibit private insurers from using 'Medicare' in plan titles or advertising, and levy fines on payers that use the "deceptive practice."
"'Medicare Advantage' is just private insurance that profits by denying coverage and the name is being used to trick seniors into enrolling. That’s not right," Khanna said in a statement. "This bill will prevent these private insurers from labeling themselves as 'Medicare' and allow us to focus on strengthening and expanding real Medicare instead."
It is unlikely the bill passes through the House, where MA has received bipartisan support. In January, 346 representatives, or 80% of the chamber, signed a letter to CMS backing MA.
Yet the push for the legislation is necessary, according to its sponsors, who pointed to a recent report by The New York Times that showed eight of the 10 largest MA insurers submitted inflated bills. Four of the five largest insurers—United Health, Humana, Elevance, and Kaiser—have faced federal lawsuits alleging fraudulent efforts to overdiagnose patients.
Pocan and Khanna also highlighted a report by the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission from March that found at least $12 billion in overpayments to MA plans in 2020 by the federal government.
"These non-Medicare plans run by private insurers undermine traditional Medicare. They often leave patients without the benefits they need while overcharging the federal government for corporate profit. This bill eliminates any confusion about what is – and what is not – Medicare, and ensures this essential program will continue to serve seniors and other Americans for years to come."
Jay Asser is an associate editor for HealthLeaders.