Choice in Medicare is Stronger than Ever in 2012

At the time the Affordable Care Act was passed, Republicans in Congress said the bill would virtually end the Medicare Advantage program. “Every one of them (in Medicare Advantage) will see their benefits go down,” “provisions in there are going to allow them to kill Medicare Advantage,” “if this passes, it is the end of Medicare Advantage as we know it,” are just a few of the incendiary charges Republicans made about the Affordable Care Act.  Premiums would go up, they claimed, and choice and enrollment would go down. 

Those predictions turned out to be wrong. Medicare Advantage is stronger than ever – offering more seniors better benefits, higher quality care and lower costs.  As reported last year, 99.7 percent of people with Medicare still have access to Medicare Advantage plans.

In fact, premiums have been consistently lower – and enrollment has been higher.  Today, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services announced that average premiums for Medicare Advantage enrollees in 2012 are 7 percent lower compared to last year, exceeding the 4 percent decrease that was projected in September. Since the Affordable Care Act was enacted, premiums have gone down by nearly 16 percent. In addition, enrollment increased by nearly 10 percent from 2011. That means that Medicare Advantage enrollment is up by 17 percent since enactment of the Affordable Care Act in 2010. In August of 2010, CBO projected that Medicare Advantage enrollment would be 10.2 million in 2012, down from 10.4 million in 2009. Actual enrollment is over 2 million people higher than that projection, at 12.8 million in February of this year.

And further, the Affordable Care Act strengthened consumer protections and improved plan choices for people with Medicare Advantage. The law is paring back overpayments to plans.  It requires health plans to pay at least 85 percent of what they collect in payments on health care, not on overhead and profits.  Plans can no longer charge higher cost sharing than a senior in traditional Medicare pays.  And proven preventive services are covered for free. 

And when seniors choose a Medicare Advantage plan, a new five-star rating system shows them which plans in their area are doing a better job of caring for patients.  Plus, a new, value-based purchasing system is encouraging all plans to improve their quality by paying plans with excellent overall quality more, and lower-quality plans less. It’s the kind of smart reform we’ve implemented throughout Medicare since enactment of the Affordable Care Act.

This is another myth from opponents of health reform debunked by results. Under the Affordable Care Act, Medicare is stronger than ever.

Nancy-Ann DeParle is the Assistant to the President and Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy
Related Topics: Economy, Health Care