Unprecedented Bipartisan Support Builds as 404 Members of Congress Urge CMS to Protect Medicare Advantage Seniors
MARCH 25, 2016
As CMS prepares to finalize Medicare Advantage payment policies on April 4th, mounting support for protecting this invaluable coverage option has grown to an unprecedented level. A bipartisan group of 404 members of Congress—including 92 new signers—have sent 20 letters urging the Medicare agency to protect seniors from Washington’s proposed cuts. According to Oliver Wyman, CMS’ changes, if finalized, would result in an estimated 0.5 to 3.9 percent cut on average to Medicare Advantage payments in 2017.
The voices on Capitol Hill join those of physicians and the 2 million Medicare Advantage beneficiaries with AHIP’s Coalition for Medicare Choices (CMC), who are urging Washington to protect their coverage through dozens of in-person meetings with elected representatives in their districts and on Capitol Hill and thousands of emails and phones calls to Congressional offices. This year, CMC members have contacted 534 Members of Congress.
For the first time ever, an overwhelming majority of lawmakers weighed in this year before the release of CMS’ draft rate notice in February. See a map of lawmakers supporting Medicare Advantage seniors and highlights from letters below.
Bipartisan Senate letter signed by 61 senators and led by Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID) and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY):
- “Annual payment and policy changes create disruption and confusion among beneficiaries, especially in low-income, rural and minority populations. Additional cuts have the potential to stifle innovation and further impede beneficiary access to high quality health care… Medicare Advantage offers individuals affordable, patient-centered health care. We ask that any proposed payment or policy changes promote stability and preserve plan options for the millions of beneficiaries enrolled in the program.”
Bipartisan House letter signed by 308 members and led by Rep. Brett Guthrie (R-KY) and Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-FL):
- “[W]e ask that you establish payment and regulatory policies for 2017 that avoid further payment cuts to the program, maintain stable coverage options for beneficiaries, and support innovations that are crucial to meeting the health care needs of 17 million seniors and individuals with disabilities… Every day we hear from seniors in our districts who benefit significantly from the innovative, coordinated care they receive through their Medicare Advantage plan. These personal stories reinforce seniors’ overwhelming satisfaction with the program, their coverage, and the services their plans provide.”
Letter from Senate Republican leadership and members of the Finance Committee:
- “The proposal to revise the payment and bidding model for Employer Group Waiver Plans would negatively impact the retiree coverage provided to beneficiaries… [T]he proposed changes to the risk adjustment model could undermine plan efforts to improve beneficiary health… [T]he encounter data system currently has numerous unresolved operational and technical issues and fails to capture a reliable, comprehensive picture of beneficiary diagnoses.”
Letter signed by 47 House Democrats and led by Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-FL) and Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ):
- “We urge you to remove the proposed 3-4% payment cut to MA Retiree Coverage in the 2017 Final Notice… It is critical that the 3.3 million seniors enrolled in MA Retiree Coverage continue to have access to high quality, stable health care delivered by this option.”
Letter from the Leaders of the House Ways & Means and Energy & Commerce committees:
- “[R]oughly one in three Medicare beneficiaries are enrolled in a MA plan. Millions of seniors have come to rely on MA plans, many of which offer supplemental benefits, reduced cost sharing, or innovative approaches to improve care… We stand ready to work with CMS on common sense policies that promote choice, encourage plan innovation to improve care, and ensure continued access to Medicare benefits through the MA program.”
Bipartisan follow-up letter led by Rep. Brett Guthrie (R-KY) and Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-FL):
- “Upon reviewing the 2017 Advance Notice, we are now writing to express concerns with some of the proposals that were included that we believe would result in significant harm to the MA program and to the seniors who rely on it. Specifically, we are recommending that you not move forward with: (1) proposed changes to the risk adjustment model for the MA program; (2) a related proposal that would expand the use of flawed encounter data; and (3) a proposal to revise the payment and bidding model for Employer Group Waiver Plans. We are concerned that these proposals would undermine the high quality, affordable coverage…under the MA program”
Letters have also been sent by the House Republican Leadership; the state delegations of Arizona, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Texas, Washington, West Virginia; and Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) and Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC), Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA), Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI) and Rep. Reid Ribble (R-WI), and Rep. Paul Tonko (D-NY).
Earlier than ever this year, AHIP’s Coalition for Medicare Choices (CMC) launched a digital advertising campaign and a coast-to-coast mobilization of its 2 million Medicare Advantage beneficiaries to protect the high quality, innovative coverage offered by these plans. A new survey from Morning Consult found that heading into the November election, seniors are making this a priority voting issue.