GOP hits Obama on Medicare Advantage

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House Republican leaders on Thursday wrote to President Obama voicing their “deep concern” over expected cuts to the Medicare Advantage program that they blame on the president’s healthcare law.

The administration is expected to announce the 2015 rates for the popular alternative to government health insurance on Feb. 21, and insurers bracing for cuts have mounted an intense lobbying campaign to head them off.

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The GOP leaders touted Medicare Advantage in their letter and said any cuts to the program, coupled with new rule-making from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, “will force millions of American seniors to face higher health care costs or lose access to their doctor, health plan, lifesaving drugs, and the benefits they’ve come to rely on.”

The letter was signed by Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and his top three lieutenants, along with the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.), and the chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.).

“Now is not the time to shortchange seniors' choices,” they wrote. “During debate over your health care law, the American people were promised that if they liked their health plan they could keep it, a claim that has proved false for millions of working families. Now we know that those broken promises extend to our senior citizens.”

ObamaCare enacted $200 billion in cuts to Medicare Advantage over 10 years, and Republicans are signaling they would make them a significant issue in the 2014 congressional elections, just as they have tried to do in the last two national campaigns. Both parties aggressively court the votes of senior citizens, who show up at the polls in higher proportions than younger voters.

Medicare Advantage covers about one-third of beneficiaries in the entitlement program for the elderly through enrollment with private insurance companies.

Democrats have defended the cuts as rectifying an imbalance with traditional Medicare, and the Kaiser Family Foundation found that, in terms of enrollments, premiums and plan choices, Medicare Advantage has held up well.

The Republican leaders couched their concerns with the looming cuts in terms of their longstanding attacks on ObamaCare. While they noted the Obama administration has been loathe to work with them on fixes, they urged the president to order Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of Health and Human Services, to develop a plan “to address the devastating impact of these cuts, ensuring — at a minimum — that seniors will not experience further disruptions in 2015.”

— Elise Viebeck contributed.

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