clear
Thursday September 3rd, 2015 5:34PM

Medicare Advantage plans may face cuts

By The Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Cuts are on the table next year for Medicare Advantage plans, the Obama administration says. The politically dicey move affecting a private insurance alternative highly popular with seniors immediately touched off an election-year fight.

The announcement gave new ammunition to Republican critics of President Barack Obama's health care law, while disappointing some Democratic senators who had called on the administration to hold rates steady. Insurers are still hoping to whittle back the cuts or dodge them altogether.

Late Friday after financial markets closed, Medicare issued a 148-page assessment of cost factors for the private plans next year. It included multiple variables, some moving in different directions, but analyst Matthew Eyles of Avalere Health estimated it would translate to a cut of 1.9 percent for 2015, a figure also cited by congressional staffers briefed on the proposal.

"There's nothing to like here if you're one of the plans," said Eyles.

Administration officials say the plans don't need to be paid as much to turn a profit, because the growth of health care spending has slowed dramatically. They see the cuts as a dividend for taxpayers.

But the political clout of the plans is growing as seniors flock to them seeking better health care value. Medicare Advantage plans now serve nearly 16 million people, or about 30 percent of Medicare beneficiaries. They can offer lower out-of-pocket costs and broader benefits than traditional Medicare, but often restrict choice.

Insurers say they will be forced to pass on higher costs to seniors or cut benefits if their rates are reduced, and some plans may drop out altogether. The impact could vary significantly around the country.

The industry says the cuts come as Medicare Advantage reductions programmed under the health care law are ramping up. The law sought to compensate for prior years in which the plans were overpaid. But it also includes a new tax on insurers, so industry officials fear the combined impact will be much higher.

The largest insurer trade group, America's Health Insurance Plans, is sparing no effort to head off cuts, with an extensive advertising and lobbying campaign.

It has won the support of 40 senators from both parties who, in a Feb. 14 letter, called on the administration to essentially hold Medicare Advantage rates steady. Among the signers were six Democratic senators in contested races whose outcome will determine whether Obama faces a Congress next year that's completely controlled by Republicans.

Final rates won't be released until April 7, so the lobbying will get even more intense. In prior years, Medicare has sometimes pulled back from proposed cuts.

Friday's announcement will help the government decide basic rates for the Medicare Advantage plans. But the actual change individual plans and customers eventually see will vary, depending on factors like a plan's quality rating or where the plan is located.

The plans have become a key source of revenue growth for insurers who sell and administer the subsidized coverage. They offer basic Medicare coverage topped with extras like vision or dental coverage or premiums lower than standard Medicare rates. There are hundreds of different plans around the country, each with its own set of variables like different deductibles, premiums and co-insurance.

UnitedHealth Group Inc. and Humana Inc. are the two largest Medicare Advantage providers. Health insurance stocks that soared in 2013 slipped at the start of this year after Humana Inc., the second-largest in the market, said rate cuts could be deeper than expected.
© Copyright 2015 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Judge denies motions to move, delay Tsarnaev trial
Lawyers for Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev asked a federal appeals court Wednesday to overturn a judge's decision to not move his upcoming trial out of state.
10:02PM ( 8 months ago )
High court to adopt electronic filing of cases
The Supreme Court is belatedly developing an electronic filing system similar to those used in courts around the country, Chief Justice John Roberts said Wednesday in his annual end-of-year report.
7:57PM ( 8 months ago )
Storm brings snow, cold to West for New Year's
A blustery winter storm dumped snow and ice across the West on Wednesday, making driving treacherous in the mountains from California to the Rockies and forcing residents and party-goers in some usually sun-soaked cities to bundle up for a frosty New Year's.
5:19PM ( 8 months ago )
U.S. News
State DOT awards $48M contract for NE Ga. road project
The state Department of Transportation has awarded a $47.8 million contract for nine miles of work on a northeast Georgia road.
9:37AM ( 8 months ago )
Business News
Grass fire impacts rush hour traffic on 985
Rush hour traffic on I-985 was slowed by a grass fire Wednesay afternoon with one lane closed while firefighters fought the blaze.
10:19PM ( 8 months ago )
Hall County conviction, sentencing to be reviewed by SCOGA
The State Supreme Court has agreed to hear the appeal of a Hall County man when they reconvene in January.
2:37PM ( 8 months ago )
Maysville man dies from Banks County wreck
The Georgia State Patrol reports that alcohol and/or drugs were factors a single-vehicle wreck that claimed the life of a Maysville man in Banks County Tuesday night.
11:07AM ( 8 months ago )
Local/State News
GOP leader regrets talk to white supremacists; party leaders rally around him
House Republican leaders rallied around one of their own, Whip Steve Scalise, on Tuesday after he said he regrets speaking 12 years ago to a white supremacist organization and condemns the views of such groups.
6:08PM ( 8 months ago )
Conviction of Putin foe sets off protest in Moscow
President Vladimir Putin's chief political foe was convicted along with his brother on Tuesday in a fraud case widely seen as a vendetta by the Kremlin, triggering one of Russia's boldest anti-government demonstrations in years.
6:03PM ( 8 months ago )
More Georgians signing up for health insurance
A federal report says more Georgians have selected health insurance plans through a federally facilitated marketplace.
4:16PM ( 8 months ago )
Politics
The Latest: Attorney for couples says defiant Kentucky clerk holds the keys to her jail cell
ASHLAND, Ky. (AP) — The latest on the county clerk in Kentucky who has refused to issue marriage licenses since the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage (all times local):4:20 p.m.An attorney for the...
4:29PM ( 1 hour ago )
Trump signs GOP loyalty pledge to back party's 2016 nominee, forego potential third-party bid
WASHINGTON (AP) — Presidential candidate Donald Trump ruled out the prospect of a third-party White House bid Thursday and vowed to support the Republican Party's nominee — whoever it may be.The billi...
3:59PM ( 1 hour ago )
Judge nixes 4-game 'Deflategate' suspension for Tom Brady; NFL quickly appeals to 2nd Circuit
NEW YORK (AP) — Tom Brady learned Thursday he will start the season on the field after a judge lifted the league's four-game suspension of the star quarterback for a scandal over deflated footballs, s...
3:45PM ( 1 hour ago )
College Board reports lower SAT scores, most test-takers missing college-ready benchmark
WASHINGTON (AP) — Student performance on the SAT college entrance exam is lagging, continuing a mostly downward trend over the last five years.The College Board says in a report that a record number o...
8:14AM ( 9 hours ago )
1 Marine killed, 9 others hurt in helicopter hard landing at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina
CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. (AP) — One Marine has been killed and 9 others were hurt when a helicopter made a hard landing at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.The CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter came down hard...
7:41AM ( 9 hours ago )