While the cut itself isn’t huge, it comes on the heels of much more substantial ones. When the trend isn’t your friend and you have lobbyists, you counterpunch.
One salvo came from America’s Health Insurance Plans, which took care not to overreact to the announced cut.
“There’s wide recognition that providing stability to the Medicare Advantage program is critically important for the more than 16 million seniors enrolled. CMS is now proposing additional cuts to Medicare Advantage at a time when health care costs are projected to increase,” said AHIP President and CEO Karen Ignagni. “Protecting the millions who rely on this program should mean no further cuts. We will look carefully at the proposed changes to the Medicare Advantage program and will provide feedback on the impact of these policies on beneficiaries.”
The Better Medical Alliance, self-described as “a new organization that brings together Medicare Advantage beneficiaries, their families and loved ones; health plans, doctors, hospitals and other Medicare Advantage providers; and advocates for those served by Medicare Advantage,” was a bit more forceful in its missive to Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Administrator Marilyn Tavenner.
“We are deeply concerned that despite the growing evidence that Medicare Advantage is outperforming fee-for-service Medicare, the program has been subject to significant year-over-year payment cuts each year since 2010. While some of these cuts have come about as a result of the Affordable Care Act, a significant portion of the cuts has resulted from CMS instituting a number of discretionary payment policies. These have been real cuts – not merely reductions in rates of projected growth,” said the group’s interim Executive Director Krista Drobac. “Moreover, while overall health care cost inflation has thankfully been modest during this administration, health care costs have nonetheless continued to rise at the same time that Medicare Advantage has been subject to these real cuts each year since 2010. Our coalition believes that these cuts have been harmful to Medicare beneficiaries and that the program must not be subject to yet another year of cuts.
“We urge CMS to stabilize Medicare Advantage payment rates for 2016 to ensure continuity, affordability and peace of mind for the millions of seniors who depend on Medicare Advantage for their care. Thank you for considering our concerns.”
Meanwhile, CMS got yet another letter, signed by 35 national and state employer groups, arguing that such cuts “continue to jeopardize employers, employees, providers and patient’s choices in coverage under Medicare.”
Organizations signing the letter ranged from state chambers of commerce to manufacturing and business associations from around the nation.
“MA plans provide stronger care coordination services and encourage better health outcomes for enrollees,” the letter said. “Not only do employers and employees prefer MA plans because of the innovative integrated care provided, but they also appreciate that these plans are more affordable than coverage through original Medicare FFS. … Employees and employers are experiencing the downstream impact of these cuts through an erosion of MA benefits, increased out-of-pocket costs, and reduced access to providers and plan services.”
A bipartisan group of U.S. Senators has also attacked the proposed cuts. Opponents won’t know the final impact of their protests until the proposal becomes final on April 6.