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COMMUNITY VOICE

President should stop proposed cuts to Medicare Advantage insurance plan

Wednesday, March 12, 2014 - 12:01 am

Virtually all elected officials – Republicans and Democrats – share the goal of increasing access to affordable health insurance and helping families receive the best coverage to meet their specific needs.

The question today, as it was back in 2010 when President Obama’s health care law was enacted, is how are these objectives best achieved.

Evidence continues to mount that the Affordable Care Act is simply not meeting these goals.

More than 5 million Americans have lost their health coverage because of Obamacare. Eleven million small business employees are facing increased health care costs. And hundreds of thousands of workers have had their hours cut so that they do not meet the law’s definition of a full-time employee.

These figures back up the overwhelming feedback I have received as I travel across Indiana and from the email and phone messages Hoosiers send me. Obamacare is hurting more than it is helping and failing to bring down health care costs.

And now another group of Americans is set to lose the health care coverage of their choice.

When seniors search for health insurance, they have the option to enroll in traditional, government-run Medicare or an alternative, private option called Medicare Advantage. Fifteen million seniors have chosen Medicare Advantage plans, and most say they like their coverage.

Medicare Advantage plans offer seniors additional benefits – such as dental, vision, hearing and wellness – or require smaller co-payments or deductibles than Medicare.

Despite the program’s success, last month the Obama Administration announced new changes to Medicare Advantage plans. On top of the cuts these plans saw under Obamacare, the administration is proposing further reductions that could lead to fewer options for seniors.

In Indiana alone, there are more than 230,000 Hoosiers enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan.

These additional cuts could make it difficult for many Hoosier seniors to keep the benefits, plan and doctors of their choosing. According to estimates by the Kaiser Family Foundation, nationwide over half a million Medicare Advantage enrollees will lose their existing coverage in 2014.

The administration is cutting billions of dollars from Medicare Advantage – an extremely popular program – while Obamacare, an unpopular program falling short of enrollment expectations, receives the White House’s full support.

This is another broken promise from the Obama Administration.

In 2009, President Obama said, “If you like your doctor, you keep your doctor. If you like your current insurance, you keep that insurance. Period, end of story.”

Regardless of this pledge, many Hoosier seniors could have to either switch to another Medicare Advantage plan, if one is available in their area, or return to traditional Medicare.

President Obama should keep his promise to seniors and reverse these proposed cuts to Medicare Advantage. Taking this action will mitigate one of the many negative impacts the president’s health care policies are having on Hoosier seniors, workers and middle-class families.

Sen. Dan Coats is a Republican from Indiana.