Wed Apr 20, 2011 at 08:10 AM PDT
Obama administration eases pain of Medicare cuts
Millions of seniors in popular private insurance plans offered through Medicare will be getting a reprieve from some of the most controversial cuts in President Barack Obama’s health care law.
In a policy shift critics see as political, the Health and Human Services department has decided to award quality bonuses to hundreds of Medicare Advantage plans rated merely average.
As you may recall, the health reform law cut subsidies for ineffective Medicare Advantage plans by about $150 billion over ten years because those plans cost more than traditional Medicare without delivering better care. Ending the subsidies was an obvious move to reduce spending on Medicare without compromising the quality of care, but Republicans like Karl Rove have attacked the policy shift as an attempt to pull the plug on grandma.
So now that the administration is granting a reprieve to many—though not all—of the Medicare Advantage plans that Republicans were so proudly defending, you’d think they would celebrate having saved grandma’s life. Except now that the administration is doing what they had said they wanted it to do in the first place, they’re still on attack:
In a recent letter to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, two prominent GOP lawmakers questioned what they termed the administration’s “newfound support” for Medicare Advantage.The shift “may represent a thinly veiled use of taxpayer dollars for political purposes,” wrote Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah and Rep. Dave Camp of Michigan. Camp chairs the House Ways and Means Committee, which oversees Medicare. Hatch is his counterpart as ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee.
Republicans won an election in part by attacking the Obama administration over cuts to Medicare Advantage subsidies, but now that they have gotten their way, they are once again on the attack. For Hatch and Camp, this isn’t a matter of principle. It’s about opposing Obama because he’s their political enemy. They aren’t fighting for their ideas, or for what they think is right. They are fighting to save their own political ass. And it’s pathetic.