Throughout the mark-up process, Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee have continuously argued that replacing the over-payments to private plans participating in Medicare Advantage with a competitive bidding process, would cause the 10 million Americans who are enrolled in the program to lose the extra benefits some Advantage programs provide.
This morning, during a heated exchange with Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), committee staffer Shawn Bishop explained that under the Committee’s bill, 10 million seniors “would not be losing the extra benefits they have today.” To the contrary, some Americans in low-cost states would actually gain benefits. By 2019, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that 200,000 more Americans would be enrolled in Medicare Advantage coverage. But Hatch did not read that report:
HATCH: Here is the bottom line, will the 10 million people see a loss in their extra benefits? The answer to that of course is ‘yes.’ [...]
STAFFER: Categorically 10 million beneficiaries would not be losing the extra benefits they have today. Some would be gaining.[...]
HATCH: The fact of the matter is, the bottom line, is that these are 10 million people that are going to lose benefits. And that’s what it boils down to.
Hatch repeatedly dismissed the staffer’s explanations and insisted that all 10 million would lose their benefits. Watch it:
Bishop explained that under the legislation’s competitive bidding program — a process under which private insurers in each geographical area would bid to provide coverage to Medicare beneficiaries in a particular geographic area — Medicare Advantage plans that provide quality benefits efficiently, would receive a 5 percent bonus on top of their competitive bid to pay for extra benefits. Consequently, states with low costs, would be gaining benefits.
“So in low cost states, low fee-for-service states, today, the amount of extra benefits is very small. It’s minimal. Competitive bidding will allow good plans that coordinate care, that achieve quality rankings to earn up to 5 percent of the national average and that’s going to bring more extra benefits to low-cost states,” Bishop explained.
“So it’s not accurate Senator to say all 10 million beneficiaries are going to have less extra benefits than they do today. That’s not the case there’s going to be some with more, some with less,” she concluded.
Throughout the mark-up process, Hatch has filibustered amendments by peppering the staff with detailed queries and dismissing answers that departed from his ideology. On Tuesday, insisting that the individual mandate provision was unconstitutional, despite committee assurances to the contrary.