AHIP continues fight for Medicare Advantage

Karen Ignagni, president and CEO of America's Health Insurance Plans. (AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari) Karen Ignagni, president and CEO of America's Health Insurance Plans. (AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari)

America’s Health Insurance Plans is continuing its fight against Medicare Advantage cuts.

As CMS prepares to set 2015 Medicare Advantage payment rates, AHIP’s Coalition for Medicare Choices is launching its largest-ever mobilization to “remind Washington that seniors are following this issue closely and to urge the Medicare agency to protect them from further harm by maintaining current payment levels.”

It’s the latest phase of the organization’s “Seniors are Watching” campaign, made up of 1.5 million senior members. AHIP has been vocal against moves made to the Medicare Advantage program by the Obama administration.

The latest campaign will be a big effort, AHIP said: There will be television, digital, print and display advertising; social media attention and a grassroots mobilization of CMC’s 1.5 million Medicare Advantage beneficiaries in which seniors will be visiting congressional district offices, participating in town hall meetings, and sharing their concerns with Washington through phone calls, letters and social media.

Last year the Medicare Advantage program was hit by a 6.5 percent cut in payments, a move, AHIP says, that’s “caused benefit reductions, higher out-of-pocket costs, and loss of provider choices for seniors.”

The group has maintained that additional Medicare Advantage payment rate reductions would further put at risk the benefits and choices that seniors like and want to keep. 

“Seniors are watching because they depend on their Medicare Advantage benefits,” AHIP President and CEO Karen Ignagni said. “Unless current payment rates are maintained, seniors in Medicare Advantage will lose benefits and choices on which they rely today.”

Another round of payment cuts would mean seniors learning that out-of-pocket costs are higher, benefits have been cut, provider access is restricted, and choice of plans is more limited, Ignagni said.

Seniors who are part of the group are also speaking out with AHIP releasing some of their statements.

 “If something happens to my plan that I have to change, I don’t know what I will do,” said Betty Watford, a Medicare Advantage beneficiary in Tallahassee, Fla.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act includes more than $200 billion in Medicare Advantage payment cuts, most of which haven’t gone into effect yet, and imposes a new health insurance tax.

Though there’ve been ominous warnings about Medicare Advantage plan cuts for the past year, benefits experts say those predictions are turning into reality.

In November, AHIP sent a letter to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Marilyn Tavenner arguing that the Medicare Advantage program faces “severe underfunding” due to the administration’s regulatory actions to the program.

Their letter highlighted an analysis of CMS data showing that seniors in Medicare Advantage will see, on average, more than a 5 percent increase in premiums this year. AHIP also said beneficiaries in more than 2,000 counties across the country in which more than 60 percent of all enrollees live will have fewer plan options compared to 2013 and many will face higher out-of-pocket costs for Medicare benefits.

Preliminary MA 2015 rates are expected to be announced by CMS on Feb. 21, 2014, with final rates expected on April 7, 2014.

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