40 Senators Sign Bipartisan Letter Urging CMS to Maintain Current Medicare Advantage Payment Levels in 2015

“We urge you to maintain payment levels that will allow MA beneficiaries to be protected from disruptive changes in 2015.”

A bipartisan group of 40 senators recently sent a letter to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) urging the Medicare agency to protect seniors by maintaining current payment levels in 2015.  The new letter, spearheaded by Senators Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Mike Crapo (R-ID), says, “We write to raise serious concerns about the Medicare Advantage (MA) 2015 rate notice and the impact further cuts may have on the millions of individuals enrolled in the program. We are strongly committed to preserving the high quality health plan choices and benefits that our constituents receive through the MA program. Given the impact that payment policies could have on our constituents, we ask that you prioritize beneficiaries’ experience and minimize disruption in maintaining payment levels for 2015.” Below are additional highlights from the letter:

  • “Approximately 15 million seniors and individuals with disabilities—accounting for 28 percent of all Medicare beneficiaries—are currently enrolled in MA plans, which tend to offer more flexible services and benefits than traditional Medicare. MA plans are popular for many reasons, including the systems of coordinated care they have developed to provide for the seamless delivery of health care services, as well as their emphasis on preventive care and disease management services for beneficiaries with chronic conditions.”
  • “Studies show that enrollees in the MA program enjoy better health outcomes and receive higher quality care than their counterparts in the Medicare fee-for-service (FFS) program. A 2013 study published in Health Affairs found that MA plan performance measures for breast cancer screening, diabetes care, and cholesterol testing were consistently better when compared to traditional Medicare. Another study, published by the American Journal of Managed Care in February 2012, found that the hospital readmission rates for MA enrollees are 13-20 percent lower than for Medicare FFS enrollees—demonstrating MA plan patients avoid potentially harmful complications.”
  • “MA has been a great success and should remain a competitive choice for our constituents. Unfortunately, continued regulatory changes that affect the program’s funding, year after year, create disruption and confusion among beneficiaries who are looking for consistency and predictability.”
  • “Furthermore, such disruptions inhibit plans from driving the innovation that has resulted in better care and improved outcomes for Medicare beneficiaries. While we were very supportive of your decision to assume a ‘doc fix’ in the 2014 MA rate calculation and urge you continue it this year, the MA program still experienced a real payment cut in 2014, not simply reductions in rates of projected growth.”
  •  “We ask that you carefully examine the MA program and make policy changes for 2015 that ensure continued access and high quality care for America’s seniors, persons with disabilities and other beneficiaries. Funding stability is key to building upon MA’s successful coordinated care health outcomes.”
  • “We urge you to maintain payment levels that will allow MA beneficiaries to be protected from disruptive changes in 2015.”

Each year, CMS sets payment rates for Medicare Advantage plans based on many factors.  Preliminary 2015 rates are expected to be announced on February 21, 2014, with final rates expected on April 7, 2014. A recent report from Oliver Wyman found that another round of payment cuts would mean seniors learning that out-of-pocket costs are higher, benefits have been cut, provider access is restricted, and choice of plans is more limited.

This new bipartisan letter adds to a growing list of voices representing a broad array of physicians, employers, and health care thought leaders expressing concern about potential new cuts to Medicare Advantage.

AHIP’s Coalition for Medicare Choices (CMC) recently launched a national grassroots and advocacy campaign, called “Seniors are Watching,” urging the Medicare agency to protect seniors in the program by maintaining current payment levels in 2015. To learn more, visit www.MedicareChoices.org/Seniors-Are-Watching and follow the coalition on Twitter (@ProtectMyMA) and Facebook.

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