A broad and perhaps informal coalition of Medicare Advantage supporters is gearing up tofight the Obama administration’s announced intention to cut payments to MAinsurers by 0.9 percent.

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Read: Carriers face 1 percent Medicare Advantage cut

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While the cut itself isn’t huge, it comes on the heels ofmuch more substantial ones. When the trendisn’t your friend and you have lobbyists, you counterpunch.

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One salvo came from America’s Health Insurance Plans, which tookcare not to overreact to the announced cut.

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“There’s wide recognition that providing stability to theMedicare Advantage program is critically important for the morethan 16 million seniors enrolled. CMS is now proposing additionalcuts to Medicare Advantage at a time when health care costs areprojected to increase,” said AHIP President and CEO Karen Ignagni.“Protecting the millions who rely on this program should mean nofurther cuts. We will look carefully at the proposed changes to theMedicare Advantage program and will provide feedback on the impactof these policies on beneficiaries.”

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The Better Medical Alliance, self-described as “a neworganization that brings together Medicare Advantage beneficiaries,their families and loved ones; health plans, doctors, hospitals andother Medicare Advantage providers; and advocates for those servedby Medicare Advantage,” was a bit more forceful in its missive toCenters for Medicare & Medicaid Services Administrator MarilynTavenner.

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“We are deeply concerned that despite the growing evidence thatMedicare Advantage is outperforming fee-for-service Medicare, theprogram has been subject to significant year-over-year payment cutseach year since 2010. While some of these cuts have come about as aresult of the Affordable Care Act, a significant portion of thecuts has resulted from CMS instituting a number of discretionarypayment policies. These have been real cuts – not merely reductionsin rates of projected growth,” said the group’s interim ExecutiveDirector Krista Drobac. “Moreover, while overall health care costinflation has thankfully been modest during this administration,health care costs have nonetheless continued to rise at the sametime that Medicare Advantage has been subject to these real cutseach year since 2010. Our coalition believes that these cuts havebeen harmful to Medicare beneficiaries and that the program mustnot be subject to yet another year of cuts.

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“We urge CMS to stabilize Medicare Advantage payment rates for2016 to ensure continuity, affordability and peace of mind for themillions of seniors who depend on Medicare Advantage for theircare. Thank you for considering our concerns.”

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Meanwhile, CMS got yet another letter, signed by 35 national andstate employer groups, arguing that such cuts “continue tojeopardize employers, employees, providers and patient’s choices incoverage under Medicare.”

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Organizations signing the letter ranged from state chambers ofcommerce to manufacturing and business associations from around thenation.

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“MA plans provide stronger care coordination services andencourage better health outcomes for enrollees,” the letter said.“Not only do employers and employees prefer MA plans because of theinnovative integrated care provided, but they also appreciate thatthese plans are more affordable than coverage through originalMedicare FFS. … Employees and employers are experiencing thedownstream impact of these cuts through an erosion of MA benefits,increased out-of-pocket costs, and reduced access to providers andplan services.”

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A bipartisan group of U.S. Senators has also attacked theproposed cuts. Opponents won’t know the final impact of theirprotests until the proposal becomes final on April 6.

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Dan Cook

Dan Cook is a journalist and communications consultant based in Portland, OR. During his journalism career he has been a reporter and editor for a variety of media companies, including American Lawyer Media, BusinessWeek, Newhouse Newspapers, Knight-Ridder, Time Inc., and Reuters. He specializes in health care and insurance related coverage for BenefitsPRO.