GOP leaders to HHS: Call off Medicare changes

Republican Senate leaders criticized the Obama administration Tuesday for proposed changes to Medicare Advantage (MA) and Part D they say would weaken the two programs.

Led by Minority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellCongress fails on promises to restore regular order and stop funding by crisis Overnight Healthcare: Dems dig in over Zika funding Business groups ramp up pressure to fill Ex-Im board MORE (R-Ky.), the lawmakers called on Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen SebeliusKathleen SebeliusFighting for assisted living facilities The chaotic fight for ObamaCare California exchange CEO: Insurers ‘throwing ObamaCare under the bus’ MORE to suspend proposed cuts to Medicare Advantage and reforms in Part D that would allow regulators to participate in negotiations between insurance companies and pharmacies for the first time.

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"Unlike ObamaCare, the Medicare prescription drug benefit is wildly popular and it has cost less than initial projections," the letter stated.

"At a time when HHS is struggling on basic implementation tasks on many fronts, we cannot understand the logic behind the department's interest in further undermining one of the few success stories under its purview."

The administration argues that cuts in Medicare Advantage would reduce waste within the program and bring its per-patient funding in line with traditional Medicare, which currently receives less money on average.

In Part D, federal health officials say regulators need new authority to ensure the market for prescription drugs works well for seniors.

The proposed rules would also open drug plans' preferred networks to a wider range of pharmacies, limit plan bids within a region and remove "protected class" designations for certain types of drugs.

But Republicans say the changes will harm Medicare Advantage beneficiaries and potentially raise premiums on Part D plans or force seniors out of their current coverage.

Both issues are rearing their heads in the midterm elections, as the GOP seeks to broaden its healthcare attacks to include more than ObamaCare.

Tuesday's letter to Sebelius was signed by McConnell, GOP Whip John CornynJohn CornynThe Hill's 12:30 Report House to vote on NRA-backed gun measure Attorney general says she will defer to FBI on Clinton emails MORE (Texas), GOP Conference Chairman John ThuneJohn ThuneVeep auditions in overdrive Gingrich, Christie top Trump’s VP list: report Congress must resolve net neutrality once and for all MORE (S.D.), GOP Policy Committee Chairman John BarrassoJohn BarrassoGOP senator: Obama ‘believes he is above the law’ Republican senator expects Trump will 'embrace' GOP platform Sunday shows preview: Bernie soldiers on MORE (Wyo.), Conference Vice Chair Roy BluntRoy BluntSenate Dems: No August break without Zika deal Overnight Finance: Senate sends Puerto Rico bill to Obama | Treasury, lawmakers to meet on tax rules | Obama hits Trump on NAFTA | Fed approves most banks' capital plans Overnight Healthcare: Sanders, Clinton ally jockey for health gavel MORE (Mo.) and National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman Jerry MoranJerry MoranSenate panel approves lifting Cuba travel ban Boost in Afghan visas blocked in Senate Senate contradicts itself on Gitmo MORE (Kan.).