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Obama Administration Changes to Medicare Advantage, Prescription Drug Program Harmful to America’s Seniors

‘Now is no time to impose higher costs or reduce options for America’s seniors. We respectfully urge you to suspend these misguided policies,’ according to a letter from the Senate Republican Leadership to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

February 25, 2014

Washington, D.C. — 

The Senate’s Republican leadership today expressed deep concern with a series of Obama administration actions on Medicare Advantage and the Medicare prescription drug benefit – actions that will increase premiums, reduce choices and cause America’s seniors to lose access to the health plans they were promised they could keep.

In a letter, the lawmakers urged Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to suspend the administration’s “misguided policies” aimed at weakening the Medicare Advantage and prescription drug programs. The letter was signed by Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (KY), Senate Republican Whip John Cornyn (TX), Republican Conference Chairman John Thune (SD), Republican Policy Committee Chairman John Barrasso (WY), National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman Jerry Moran (KS) and Conference Vice Chair Roy Blunt (MO).

“Unlike Obamacare, the Medicare prescription drug benefit is wildly popular and it has cost less than initial predictions,” the senators wrote. “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 senators said they are “deeply troubled” by HHS’s recent 700-page proposal to fundamentally undermine the core principles – private competition and consumer choice - that have made the Medicare prescription drug program a success. “We are particularly concerned about proposals to reduce the number of plans available to seniors, in direct contravention of the President’s promise to the American people,” according to the letter.

Late last week, the Obama administration announced additional cuts to Medicare Advantage, a private insurance alternative highly popular with seniors. In a recent bipartisan letter to the administration, even prominent Democrat senators who twice voted to sustain Medicare Advantage cuts under the failed Obamacare law, called the program a “great success” and urged against more cuts.

Citing independent actuaries at the Oliver Wyman global management consulting firm, the senators said that the cumulative impact of the Medicare Advantage changes will increase costs or cut benefits for seniors dramatically.

“This is a significant blow to seniors, many of whom are on a fixed income,” the lawmakers wrote. “To mitigate this financial impact, plans may be forced to reduce benefits or worse still, withdraw from certain communities -- causing seniors to lose the health plans they were told, by your administration, they could keep.”

Read the letter here.