Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Obama's Latest Plan to Snooker Seniors

GAO outs $8 billion Medicare Advantage "demonstration project" as an election year scam.

For years, the President and his congressional accomplices have been telling us that the Medicare Advantage (MA) program is too costly. As Obama claimed during a 2009 interview with ABC's George Stephanopoulos: "We are spending a lot of money subsidizing the insurance companies around something called Medicare Advantage.… And if we eliminate that and other programs, we can potentially save $200 billion…" This canard was the pretext for the massive slashes in MA funding he authorized when he signed Obamacare into law. As the election year approached, however, the President's reelection team evidently noticed a potential problem -- the seniors most likely to be affected by these MA cuts were due to find out about them just a few weeks before the November election.

As Benjamin E. Sasse and Charles Hurt report, open enrollment for MA begins three weeks before voters go to the polls: "It's hard to imagine a bigger electoral disaster for a president than seniors in crucial states like Florida, Pennsylvania and Ohio discovering that he's taken away their beloved Medicare Advantage just weeks before an election." And it is no exaggeration to say that MA is "beloved." Nearly 25 percent of all Medicare enrollees are on MA, and the vast majority of these seniors chose the program because of its low co-pays and comprehensive benefits. It is no coincidence that well over three-fifths of MA beneficiaries have annual incomes of less than $30,000 and that the percentage of minorities enrolled in the program is much higher than is the case for traditional Medicare.

The electoral significance of these facts would hardly have been lost on the President's political advisors when they learned that Obamacare's MA cuts would be unveiled to the nation's most reliable voters just before the November election. The resultant vision of surly seniors lining up in their millions at the polls to pull the lever for Mitt Romney presumably produced urgent emails and frantic phone calls, followed by a terse directive from the White House to Obama's creatures at CMS to come up with plan to put off the cuts until after the election. In due course, an $8.3 billion "demonstration project" materialized that would "temporarily restore Medicare Advantage funds so that seniors in key markets don't lose their trusted insurance program in the middle of Obama's re-election bid."

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