Florida Congressmen From Both Parties Push Against Obama on Medicare
Around the State
With the White House announcing in recent weeks that funds would go from Medicare Advantage to fund President Barack Obama’s signature health-care law and pushing a plan to limit which drugs seniors can get from Medicare, Florida political leaders from both parties are trying to find solutions for seniors. Obama’s proposal to cut Medicare Advantage, a private Medicare insurance option, to fund the health-care law has already drawn the fire of prominent Florida Republicans.
This week, U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Fla., introduced the “Protecting Health Savings Accounts for Medicare Beneficiaries Act of 2014." Ross’s proposal would allow seniors with Health Savings Accounts (HSA) to transfer money into Medicare Medical Savings Accounts (MMSA) when they become eligible for Medicare coverage. Staffers told Sunshine State News on Thursday that Ross did not yet have a sponsor for the bill in the Senate.
“Obamacare has robbed the Medicare and Medicare Advantage programs – first to the tune of $716 billion in an effort to reduce future Medicare spending, and now the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services is instituting further cuts using the regulatory process as its means,” Ross said. “These cuts will ultimately reduce seniors’ choice of plans and providers, the benefits they have access to under their Medicare plans, the diversity of doctors they currently may choose from, and, in the worst case scenario, could lead to elimination of Medicare Advantage altogether. This is unacceptable.
“While I understand the need for finding cost savings in different areas, it’s reprehensible to take that money from those who have spent their lives pouring their hard-earned money into these programs and are now at or nearing retirement years,” Ross added. “Patients should have more options for planning for their future. That’s why I introduced the Protecting Health Savings Accounts for Medicare Beneficiaries Act so that those who have saved money for health care costs will be able to keep that money.”
Ross testified before the U.S. House of Representatives' Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee on Thursday on behalf of his bill.
“More than 3.5 million Medicare beneficiaries reside in my home state of Florida,” Ross told the committee. “1.2 million of these beneficiaries have chosen a Medicare Advantage plan over Medicare’s traditional, and more costly, fee-for-service structure.”
Ross showcased some of his constituents currently using Medicare Advantage during his testimony.
“Among the many satisfied Medicare Advantage plan beneficiaries in the state of Florida are Michael and Sandra Cox from my hometown of Lakeland,” Ross said. “Unfortunately, Michael and Sandra learned on Jan. 1st that the doctors that they had been seeing for more than 10 years were no longer available under the Medicare Advantage Plan as a result of the continued cuts to the program. They would face the full out-of-pocket cost should they choose to continue seeing those providers that they had come to know over the last 10 years, and their health status they treated so well.
“Mr. Chairman, was it not the administration’s goal to ensure patients develop a relationship with their provider, resulting in better prevention, and a more consistent continuum of care?” Ross continued. “Unfortunately, these cuts to Medicare Advantage, like so many other health care-related actions by this administration are contradictory to the purported message.”
“My legislation would incentivize younger Americans to establish Health Savings Accounts with the promise that upon being Medicare eligible they are able to transfer HSA funds into Medicare Medical Savings Accounts,” Ross insisted.
But Ross is not the only congressman from Florida looking to ensure the administration doesn’t alter Medicare. Back in January, the Obama administration proposed to limit drug options for seniors by changing Medicare Part D which serves almost 13 million seniors and has high customer satisfaction rates. Currently, Medicare Part D allows more options than those the administration initially proposed.
Earlier in the week, more than 40 congressmen, most of them Democrats, sent a letter to the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) demanding this proposal not be enacted. Four Democrats from South Florida -- U.S. Reps. Joe Garcia, Alcee Hastings, Patrick Murphy and Frederica Wilson -- signed the letter.
"After a lifetime of hard work, the last thing our nation's seniors need to worry about is losing the affordable prescription drug coverage that works for them," said Murphy. "Now is not the time to impose higher premiums and higher drug costs on elderly Americans. That is why we are urging CMS to not hurt seniors, rescind this overreaching proposed rule and preserve access to affordable Part D coverage."
"Our seniors have spent their lives contributing to our society,” Garcia said. “In their golden years, we need to focus on protecting programs that have been proven to work and guarding their livelihoods."
Marilyn Tavenner from the CMS responded quickly, agreeing to scrap the proposed change to Medicare Part D.
“I am glad to see the administration take a proactive step to address the concerns raised by myself and my colleagues,” said Garcia. “I am encouraged that CMS understands the need to protect and preserve these vital programs for seniors, allowing them to maintain a healthier life in their golden years. I will continue to fight to preserve the affordability and accessibility of Medicare through these programs.”
Reach Kevin Derby at email@example.com.