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 to add language that would have given every Medicare Advantage enrollee extra benefits granted by the heath care overhaul that are given to certain other enrollees. The motion was made to a bill that would overhaul the health insurance system, create a public health insurance option and impose requirements on insurance companies.
The health care overhaul bill would cut Medicare Advantage payments by about $120 billion and use them for other programs, such as a public insurance option.
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.
“What I am trying to do is allow every American citizen who is enrolled in Medicare Advantage to have the same protection of their Medicare Advantage Program as the Senator from Florida has carved out in this bill. That is all it is about. It is about equality. It is about not letting one special group of people who reside in a particular State get a better deal than those who live in the rest of the country. That is all this amendment is about,” McCain said. “It will probably be voted down on a party-line vote. But what you have done is you have allowed a carve-out for a few hundred thousand people in the State of Florida and have disallowed the other 11 million who have Medicare Advantage from having their health care cut.”
Baucus said the health care overhaul cuts payments to Medicare Advantage in areas where the government is overpaying for service.
“The McCain motion to commit is a tax on all seniors. It would maintain the overpayments to private insurers and require beneficiaries to pay higher Part B premiums. The average couple pays $90 per year just so insurers can reap greater profits under Medicare,” Baucus said. “The more than 45 million seniors with Medicare deserve better. They do not deserve to subsidize high profits of private insurers. And the more than 11 million Medicare beneficiaries who choose to enroll in private plans also deserve better. They deserve plans that coordinate care. Most plans today do not.”
By a vote of 42-57, the motion was rejected. Every Republican present voted for the motion. All but two Democrats present voted against the motion. The end result is that the motion failed and the measure went forward without language that would have extended every Medicare Advantage enrollee the extra benefits granted in the health care overhaul bill.