Mathematica's Marsha Gold to Testify Before Congress on the Medicare Advantage Program
September 21, 2012 09:00 AM
Marsha Gold, senior fellow at Mathematica Policy Research, will testify before the House Committee on Ways and Means, Subcommittee on Health, to provide policymakers with an update on the current status of the Medicare Advantage (MA) program. The hearing, "Medicare Health Plans," takes place on Friday, September 21, 2012.
Her testimony focuses on the following assessments of the current MA program:
The MA program is strong, with rising enrollment and widespread plan availability expected to continue into 2013, despite concerns that cutbacks in payments would discourage plan participation or make plans less attractive to potential enrollees.
MA plans are still paid considerably more for a similar beneficiary in the traditional program. In considering future policy changes, it is difficult to see the rationale on a national basis for paying private plans more than Medicare currently spends on the traditional program, particularly when there is so much concern about the federal deficit and debt
There is no strong or consistent evidence that private plans are better at cost control than traditional Medicare, or that health plan competition will produce enough savings to address current fiscal challenges.
Traditional Medicare remains popular with beneficiaries, which means that paying more for private plans is effectively a tax on their choice because their Part B premiums will increase with no gain in benefits to them. Traditional Medicare, with its defined and nationally uniform benefits across the country, has served as a valuable protection to beneficiaries, particularly in times of fiscal stress.
As the Congressional Budget Office (2011) has concluded, premium-support programs that reduce government contributions to Medicare will shift costs to beneficiaries and limit the health and financial protection the program provides to vulnerable beneficiaries.
Evidence from MA and other programs shows that strong oversight and effective risk adjustment are necessary to prevent unfair marketing and enrollment practices.