This week, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced its preliminary 2015 payment rate changes for the Medicare Advantage (MA) program. In addition, The Senior Citizens League (TSCL) saw two key bills gain support.
CMS Announces Preliminary MA Payment Changes
This week, CMS announced that its cuts to the Medicare Advantage program will total 1.9 percent next year, which is significantly lower than most analysts expected. However, the amount has not been finalized yet, and some say that the figure fails to consider all factors that will affect reimbursements. They expect to see a final rate in the range of 4 to 7 percent.
In a statement issued early this week, America’s Health Insurance Plans, an advocacy organization for insurers, wrote: “Reports from leading industry analysts show broad consensus that the CMS proposal, if finalized, would result in Medicare Advantage payment cuts of at least 4 percent in 2015 and likely much higher once other changes are factored in.” But in a statement of their own, representatives from CMS countered: “The proposed changes for 2015 for Medicare Advantage are smaller than those implemented in 2014 – a year in which CMS expects to exceed its 5 percent enrollment growth projection.” They went on to claim that the 2015 MA cut will actually result in lower premiums and better care for seniors.
However, MA insurers have already begun taking steps to reduce their costs in order to account for the cuts from CMS. As was noted in last week’s legislative update, UnitedHealth – one of the largest MA plan providers – has dropped thousands of doctors from its networks, leaving many seniors doctor-less. It expects its physician network to be 85 percent of its pre-Obamacare size by the end of this year. TSCL is concerned that additional cuts to MA in 2015 will harm beneficiaries in other ways, by driving up premiums and reducing benefits.
Many in Congress have been outspoken about the potential cuts. Last week, a bipartisan group of forty Senators sent a letter to CMS urging administrators to maintain current payment rates in order to protect seniors from potential benefit disruptions. TSCL has also been expressing its concerns to lawmakers, and we will continue to keep a close eye on the issue in the coming weeks. For updates, visit the Legislative News section of our website.
Two Key Bills Gain Cosponsors
This week, four new cosponsors signed on to the Social Security Fairness Act (H.R. 1795), bringing the total up to one hundred and thirteen. The new cosponsors are: Reps. Michael Fitzpatrick (PA-8), Frank LoBiondo (NJ-2), Brett Guthrie (KY-2), and Katherine Clark (MA-5). If signed into law, the Social Security Fairness Act would repeal the Government Pension Offset (GPO) and the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) – two federal provisions that unfairly reduce the earned Social Security benefits of millions of teachers, fire fighters, peace officers, and other state or local government employees each year.
In addition, two new cosponsors – Reps. Pete Olson (TX-22) and Adam Kinzinger (IL-16) – signed on to the Preventing and Reducing Improper Medicare and Medicaid Expenditures (PRIME) Act (H.R. 2305), bringing the total up to sixty. If signed into law, the PRIME Act would take a number of steps to comprehensively prevent fraud, waste, and abuse within Medicare and Medicaid – a problem that TSCL believes must be addressed in order to ensure that scarce program dollars are being spent properly.
TSCL was pleased to see support grow for H.R. 1795 and H.R. 2305 this week, and we look forward to helping build additional support for them in the coming months.