This vote was on a motion to send a bill that would overhaul the health care system back to the Finance Committee for a rewrite (known as “motion to recommit”). John McCain, R-Ariz., wanted the committee to remove language in the bill that would cut $440.5 billion from Medicare programs, including $118.1 billion from Medicare Advantage and $150 billion from provider payments. The savings for these cuts are directed to help pay for some of the health care overhaul’s provisions, such as a public health insurance option. McCain also wanted the bill to direct that certain types of savings created by the bill should be used to strengthen Medicare.
“The motion says we should retain the provisions in the legislation addressing fraud and abuse and retain those savings to strengthen the Medicare trust fund. Instead of cutting over $450 billion from Medicare providers and beneficiaries, the committee should do what it should have done in the first place—protect seniors’ benefits and access to providers. It is much needed,” McCain said. “Let’s use Medicare savings to save Medicare, not to fund a whole new $2.5 trillion entitlement program.”
Medicare Advantage is an HMO plan – where a person receives comprehensive health care coverage, but must use a certain pre-approved network of doctors, hospitals and pharmacies. It is slightly more comprehensive than traditional Medicare “fee for service” plans, but also costs more money.
Groups such as the AARP have been pushing Congress to cut funding for Medicare Advantage, which is administered by for-profit managed care companies. Medicare Advantage, on average, receives about 12 percent more than what is paid under traditional fee-for-service care, according to the House Budget Committee. AARP has argued that these insurance companies, not patients, benefit from the higher service costs.
Jack Reed, D-R.I., said the bill attempts to restructure Medicare so that it continues providing quality health care, but also attempts to cut some portions of Medicare that are inefficient or very high cost.
“If someone is interested in taking the very difficult step of entitlement reform, they would reject the McCain motion. But there are other reasons to reject the amendment, as well. First, the funding that has been eliminated from the current health care system and the system going forward, has been eliminated because it does not improve care. This is particularly true in Medicare Advantage,” Reed said. “This was a program that was developed and sold essentially to the American people as cost containment for Medicare. This was one of the proposals that would rein in out-of-control health care costs by giving insurance companies the ability to manage more effectively. Of course, what we have seen is a significant increase in payments to Medicare Advantage payments over traditional Medicare.”
By a vote of 42-58, the amendment was rejected. Every Republican present voted for the amendment. All but two Democrats present voted against the amendment. The end result is that the motion to rewrite the bill failed, and the health care overhaul went forward with its funding cuts for certain high-cost Medicare programs intact.