What: All Issues : Government Checks on Corporate Power : Pharmaceutical Industry : S Con Res 21. (Fiscal 2008 budget resolution), Hatch of Utah amendment on ensuring Medicare Advantage benefits are not reduced/On agreeing to the amendment (2007 senate Roll Call 103)
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S Con Res 21. (Fiscal 2008 budget resolution), Hatch of Utah amendment on ensuring Medicare Advantage benefits are not reduced/On agreeing to the amendment
senate Roll Call 103     Mar 23, 2007
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This vote occurred on an amendment by Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, that would stipulate that if Congress implements changes to Medicare, Medicaid or State Children's Health Insurance (SCHIP) programs, that those changes should not reduce benefits of those enrolled in the Medicare Advantage plan. 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.

"Medicare Advantage plans provide a range of benefits not available in traditional Medicare such as vision and dental care, physical exams, and hearing aids," Hatch said. "Beneficiaries across the Nation--whether they live in a rural State such as Utah or urban area such as New York City--now have more coverage choices. These choices offer beneficiaries more benefits and lower out of pocket costs."

The amendment was offered to the budget resolution that serves as the blueprint for Congress' budget priorities in fiscal 2008. The budget resolution sets overall spending targets for the Appropriations committees and outlines other budget rules.

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. However, some minority groups, such as the NAACP and LULAC (League of United Latin American Citizens), argue that Medicare Advantage provides greater benefits for low-income and minority patients.

Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., said he opposes Hatch's amendment as premature. He said his committee will be holding hearings on Medicare Advantage plans to work out what, if anything, needs to be changed.

"I urge members to do this the right way, and the right way is to figure out what to do generally with all Medicare providers, including managed care. Again, there are managed care companies that are very good and provide benefits for seniors," Baucus said. "The more thoughtful way is to not hamstring the committee by preventing the committee from making any changes to these programs. Rather, let's be thoughtful, flexible."

The amendment was rejected 49-50, on a strict party line vote, with Democrats voting against the amendment and Republicans voting in favor. Thus, the budget resolution went forward without a stipulation that changes to Medicare, Medicaid or SCHIP should not reduce benefits for those enrolled in the Medicare Advantage program.

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