The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a news release today announcing that President Obama’s health reform law has successfully increased enrollment and decreased premiums in Medicare Advantage over the last two years. HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius noted that the program has seen a nearly 30 percent increase in enrollment and a 10 percent decrease in premiums since Obamacare’s passage, and projected that the positive trends will continue over the next year:
“Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, the Medicare Advantage and Prescription Drug programs have been strengthened and continue to improve for beneficiaries,” said Secretary Sebelius. “Since the law was enacted in 2010, average premiums have gone down, enrollment has gone up, and new benefits and lower drug costs continue to help millions of seniors and people with disabilities.”
For the third year in a row, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) used authority provided by the Affordable Care Act to protect beneficiaries from significant increases in costs or cuts in benefits. Access to supplemental benefits remains steady and beneficiaries’ average out-of-pocket spending remains constant.
Obamacare’s cost-containment provisions include phased payment cuts to providers in Medicare Advantage, part of a cost-saving strategy that Republicans mischaracterize as “robbing Medicare” despite the fact that it is intended to slow the program’s growth to prolong its solvency. Since the landmark health reform law’s passage, increased enrollment in Medicare Advantage and Administration officials’ stronger bargaining position with insurance providers have also helped lower the program’s costs.
HHS’s assessment of Obamacare’s impact on Medicare Advantage is confimed by health policy organizations like the Kaiser Family Foundation, whose June report found that the program’s enrollment rate rose by 10 percent while the average premium dropped by $4 during the first half of this year. Thanks to the ongoing implementation of the health reform law, low-income Americans should continue to see their Medicare Advantage premiums decrease over time, and they will soon have a wider array of quality-rated plans to choose from.